Grand Jury Warns Against Overly Cautious Emergency Communication

There have been several recent incidents involving emergency communications that were too little too late. Illustrating this rising problem, the Santa Barbara County Civil Grand Jury in California recently expressed its concern regarding limitations of an automated telephone call-out system and the internal communications required prior to an emergency notification being issued.

After Santa Barbara County faced a series of devastating wildfire emergencies in the last five years, the 2010-11 Santa Barbara County Civil Grand Jury conducted an investigation.

According to the Grand Jury “many officials in the various emergency information organizations seemed reluctant to release information to the media and public because of ‘verifiability’ issues.”  In addition, the Grand Jury expressed concern that the verification process “significantly slowed alert and follow-up information needed by the public – in some cases from 30 to 60 minutes.”

As for the potential cause of these communication problems, the Grand Jury cited “an overly cautious culture when it came to communication among emergency agencies” as well as jurisdiction issues.

Recommendations from the Grand Jury included encouraging county and city officials to require emergency agencies to pass emergency information to adjacent jurisdictions and the County Office of Emergency Services without delay and specifying that the OES should be placed in charge of emergency education development and distribution, and should receive funding for such.

Read the entire report here: http://www.sbcgj.org/2011/EmergencyAlert.pdf

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