Santa Barbara Politics, Media & Culture

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Community News: Emergency Communications

Good news -- albeit a bit dated. Was catching up this weekend and saw this press release. -- Sara

SANTA BARBARA, CALIF. (March 6, 2009) – In response to the need for a system-wide communications solution in the event of a power outage during an emergency situation in Santa Barbara County, a community partnership between private and public organizations is collaborating to enhance the County’s communications capabilities with residents for the next regional emergency.

The Orfalea Fund’s “Aware and Prepare” Initiative along with the Santa Barbara County Office of Emergency Services and a local community group, California Concern, today announced a partnership to implement the county’s first-ever emergency communications system that links the County Emergency Operations Center with generator-powered radio stations and then to the radio-listening public to provide regular informational updates during a critical emergency when power is out.

“Our Aware and Prepare initiative awarded California Concern a grant to fund the Radio Ready program,” said Lois Mitchell, president of The Orfalea Foundations. “We are committed to funding this program because of its realistic vision in connecting county emergency officials directly to all residents via radio communication during emergency situations.”

While all stations in the county receive emergency information, the Radio Ready program is providing satellite communication equipment to the County’s Emergency Operation Center and select radio stations, which will allow officials to communicate information to local radio stations who can remain on the air with generator power during an emergency. In addition, a satellite station located at the County Betteravia Government Center will assist government officials in communicating when conventional systems have failed.

“The radio can be your lifeline for information during any emergency, and with the Radio Ready program, residents will be able to get accurate information during a power outage when televisions, cell phones and the Internet don’t work,” said Bill Pearlman, project manager for California Concern. “It’s important that everyone put a crank or battery-powered radio in their emergency preparedness kits. It’s a transportable and probably the best option in any emergency to get information.”
In the event of a crisis, the radio stations will broadcast regular information to residents, including evacuation orders, location of areas affected by the disaster, street closures, shelter information and all other relevant data helpful in making informed decisions early enough to save lives, protect property, and ease stress. The program will also be distributing, through the County’s Social Services Department, more than 5,000 hand-crank radios to area residents in need, to help facilitate the receipt of information in the case of an emergency or natural disaster.

“Radio Ready is a vital emergency communication program for the County’s multiple jurisdictions and it will further enhance our efforts to inform and protect Santa Barbara residents during an emergency,” said Michael Harris, Emergency Operations Chief for Santa Barbara County Office of Emergency Services.

The program will also involve a public education and awareness campaign, the distribution of hand-crank radios to individuals in need, and emergency drill testing of the equipment. The program will launch March 8, 2009 in conjunction with Daylight Savings Time.

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