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Office of Recovery and Resiliency

Community preparedness

The Board of Supervisors is dedicated to enacting policy decisions that will enable Sonoma County to emerge as a leader in the Emergency Management field in California. The County is committed to developing a comprehensive emergency management program and a new first-class alert and warning system that incorporates clear policy, innovative technology, real-time situational awareness, and robust community engagement.

Steps taken include:

  • Completed an  After Action Report summarizing the Emergency Operations Center strengths and challenges during the response phase and initial recovery from the fires, which documents and recommends actions needed to strengthen EOC capabilities and resources.
  • Approved $2.5 million for Fire & Emergency Services Department to support the development and implementation of an enhanced Community Alert & Warning Program, Community Preparedness Program, and Emergency Management Program.
  • Applied for funds through the Hazard Mitigation Grant Program to create a fire early warning camera system by installing fire monitoring cameras at strategic locations throughout the County, with associated microwave/tower systems.
  • Applied for funds through the Hazard Mitigation Grant Program to design and install warning sirens in selected locations in the County, and to develop operating, testing and maintenance procedures.
  • Improved ability to alert and warn people during a disaster or emergency:
    • Expanded the number of staff and jurisdictions that can activate the SoCoAlert system and the Federal Integrated Public Warning and Alert System (IPAWS) which includes the Wireless Emergency Alert system (WEA) and the Emergency Alert System (EAS).  Sheriff’s Dispatch and the City of Santa Rosa can now activate IPAWS.
    • Prepared 90 character Wireless Emergency Alert (WEA) message templates in English and Spanish for Red Flag Warnings, flash flooding, earthquakes and tsunami events.
    • Trained County staff in new Integrated Public Alert Warning System.
    • Created and recorded evacuation messages using SoCoAlert templates for probable community instructions in an emergency.
    • The County conducted Alert and Warning System tests on September 10 and 12, 2018. It was the first such WEA test on the West Coast. The tests were designed to pinpoint what those systems can and can’t do. This information will be used to make possible improvements. Staff will work with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to improve the reliability of the federal alert and warning systems.
    • Prepared for flash flooding in areas impacted by the fires with a multi-faceted approach that includes posting warning signs, sending mailers, installing debris capture devices, and sharing information on
    • Established an alert and warning subcommittee of public safety individuals from local jurisdictions to devise countywide standards and protocols for alerting and warning the public.
    • Formalized emergency procedures to improve after-hours response including warning system activations – the County now operates a “warm” Emergency Operations Center. A “warm” EOC means the facility requires no additional set-up upon activation.
    • County Emergency Management staff are on-call 24/7 and are conducting more pre-planning/situational awareness meetings with local jurisdictions. Fire services orchestrates a weekly all fire districts call to go over resources (e.g., how many fire trucks and firefighters are in the county and available). If there is an indication of problematic weather conditions, (e.g. a Red Flag Warning) emergency management now has two people on-call.
    • The County is committed to expanding the number of County emergency management staff positions from three to five:
      • Create two staff positions to develop and manage a comprehensive community alert and warning program
      • Create two staff positions to develop and manage an individual and community preparedness program. 
  • Sonoma County is also revising the its Emergency Operations Plan (EOP) to accomplish the following:
  • Revise the County’s EOP, training and exercise programs, EOC facility, and supporting resources to address the demands of major and sustained disaster events.
  • Strengthen staff training/exercise requirements. Make participation in the program mandatory. 
  • With Health Services and Human Services, completed phase one of Access Sonoma data integration project to enable the coordinated delivery of services to displaced fire victims.
  • Implemented new cloud-based public website for emergency information designed for high traffic and optimized for mobile devices,
  • Improved data protection steps taken by Board of Supervisors:
  • Approved an agreement with Alameda County to share data center space to enhance offsite protection of data backups and use site for potential recovery operations.
  • Approved $1.7 million to improve information technology resiliency and operational capability, including the daily copying of critical data.
  • Prepared and submitted a Hazard Mitigation Grant application to fund improved power infrastructure County primary data center supporting essential services.
  • County agencies are working to install an eight-camera network of high-definition cameras for an early fire detection system for the Lake Sonoma watershed. Two cameras have been installed.
  • A system of 10 stream/rain gauges and 12 rain-only gauges were installed in locations throughout the Nuns and Tubbs fires burn areas, and along streams within and downstream of the burn areas. The gauge installations enhance Sonoma County’s ability to monitor for potential dangers during rainstorms and trigger advanced warnings based on better thresholds.
  • The Board of Supervisors had invested $900,000 for “up staffing” during critical fire weather; added an additional $800,000 for firefighter support; and allotted $500,000 to jump-start the vegetation management inspection program.