New equipment could improve emergency response in Santa Barbara County

Residents also encouraged to sign up for alerts

New technology could improve response times in an emergency

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - Santa Barbara County fire agencies would like to upgrade equipment needed in emergency dispatching.

It would get the closest crew to the scene of a 911 call no matter what agency they are working for.

Ventura County already had a united command center and Santa Barbara agencies see the benefits of it.

Santa Barbara City Fire Chief Pat McElroy has led a presentation in front of the city council where he has been before on emergency response issues.

In the past he pointed out deficiencies in the 911 dispatch system that was sending local calls through the Ventura County California Highway Patrol center and back up to Santa Barbara, causing delays.

He says the system that’s needed is base on a vehicle locator system that electronically shows where a crew is located and their status.

“So currently the City of Santa Barbara can see the City of Santa Barbara. The County of Santa Barbara can see the County of  Santa Barbara, but we can’t see each others,” said McElroy.  If we were in one center then we could be tracking where everybody is and we can instantly know where the most appropriate closest resource is to solve what the person is calling for.”

The plan will be presented to fire boards and government agencies throughout the county.

It will stress the united front to use the closest resource to an incident even if it is not the local agency.

"Are they on their way to something, are they on their back, what are their capabilities, is it an aircraft, is it a bulldozer?“ said Santa Barbara County Fire Chief Eric Peterson who went on to say, “It is extremely important obviously for large-scale emergencies and smaller emergencies.

Peterson says the county has what was once fire station 9 located by its headquarters off Cathedral Oaks Road in the Goleta Valley. He says that could serve as this proposed command center.

 "Someone needs to do it,” said Peterson. “I am in a unique position where I have the ability and the capability to do it."

The building is near the County Emergency Operations Center.

"It has a big equipment bay that can hold a few engines, which is an ideal site for a dispatch center," said McElroy.

The presentation also included the need for the public to sign up for special phone alerts and not always expect a reverse 911 call.

Then they can be notified one or more ways if there is an emergency such as a fire, flooding, or hazardous materials incidents.

An example of how to sign up was shown to the council and public through an overhead projector.

If you are interested in signing up for alerts go to

"You will get an email, you will get a text message, it will go to any phones you put in, you will get a voicemail," said county Emergency Operations Chief Rob Lewin. "It will keep calling until it gets a positive contact with you. It also puts the message into social media. This one interface allows us to contact the public in a variety of ways."

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