SANTA MARIA, Calif. - In the aftermath of the Thomas Fire and Montecito mudslides, the back-to-back disasters have driven home the point to Santa Barbara County residents that catastrophes can happen anywhere.
"It seems like it happens all around us, but not here, but eventually we'll have some kind of emergency that we'll have to address," said Santa Maria mayor Alice Patino.
To prepare for a major disaster, either natural or man-made, both Santa Maria and Guadalupe adopted an "Integrated Regional Multi-Hazard Emergency Response Plan" two years ago. Incidentally, Friday marked the two-year anniversary the Santa Maria City Council passed the response plan.
"We have policies and procedures," Patino said. "We have to know what agencies to contact and who answers to who, where the headquarters are, what kind of procedures we're going to take and who responds to that and the response to a central headquarters."
The multi-faceted plan outlines the protocol to be followed in the case of several emergencies, such as flood, earthquake, hazardous materials, nuclear incident, transportation accident, terrorism/civil disturbance and tsunami.
"It address any kind of emergency," said Patino. "The important thing is knowing who's in charge and what agencies we need to contact, who the central contact person is and the different procedures that we go through so that all the departments within the City of Santa Maria know what they're suppose to do and when they're suppose to do it and who is in charge of those things."
The plan emphasizes how to insure the most effective and economical use of resources to preserve life and property.
"Every department, whether it's the library, public works, every department knows what they're suppose to do. They get together and talk about it and update it," said Patino.
Both cities review and update the plan annually. In light of recent events in Santa Barbara and Montecito, Patino said there will be plenty of valuable information both councils will use to make it even better.
"I think it's lessons learned," said Patino. "Not just here, but other agencies throughout the state and country. Any time you're able to address an issue, and you never know what that emergency is going to be or how you're going to respond it. You have the polices and procedures and you go according to that, but there's other things that you're going to learn along the way as to how you address those issues."
Patino added that while the city has its own emergency plan, so too should all residents.
"I think we'll be stressing that more when we go through our plan again and update it to let people know that they should be doing this," Patino said. "They need to have their own responsibility."
To view the Integrated Regional Multi-Hazard Emergency Response Plan, visit www.cityofsantamaria.org