SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - Folks in Texas had some time to prepare for Hurricane Harvey, but disasters Santa Barbara County residents have experienced can be less predictable.
Santa Barbara County Office of Emergency Management is working alongside the Sheriff's Office and other agencies to prepare for the next dangerous situation.
"We know that it's going to happen. For us it's a matter of if, it's always a matter of when," said Robert Lewin, director of Santa Barbara County Office of Emergency Management.
More than 400,000 lives are on the line in the county. Each time an evacuation order is created, it can affect up to thousands.
"The Sheriff's Office has the legal authority to issue evacuation orders. In cooperation with the fire department or whomever who it is that is needing some place evacuated, they would contact us," said Commander Kelly Moore, Santa Barbara County Sheriff's Office's South County Operations Division.
County residents are familiar with evacuation orders. Most recently, residents in several neighborhoods were asked to leave their homes because of the Whittier Fire.
"If we have a planned evacuation where we anticipate in a few hours a wildfire will affect a community. The first thing we're going to do is warn people for the potential for an evacuation," said Lewin.
OEM uses a system called Scout to find census data about people who live in the affected areas, but depend on residents to do their part by signing up for Aware and Prepare.
"We need people to go there and sign up. We’ll send them a text message and email. We can also send out a WEA alert which means we can wake up any cell phone in our county or the affected area and tell people to evacuate," said Lewin.
Once an evacuation order is in effect, residents must abide by it.
"If we go up and we issue the order and we knock on your door and say you need to get out, we're probably not going to come back. You need to get out when we ask you to get out," said Moore.
Aware and Prepare is a free and easy to use system. OEM will push alerts to residents' mobile device and email accounts if and when an emergency situation occurs. Click here to sign up.