The San Luis Obispo County Sheriff’s Department will utilize a $75,000 grant from Pacific Gas and Electric Co. to create a public safety task force with the goal of making the county the “most prepared” in the country for emergencies.
Sheriff Ian Parkinson and representatives of PG&E, Cal Fire, the county Office of Emergency Services and 1st District Supervisor Frank Mecham gathered Wednesday to announce the award.
Together, they vowed to bring together emergency services and volunteer groups to ensure the residents of the county would be ready in case of a natural or man-made disaster.
The task force will unite the Sheriff’s Department, city police forces and fire departments from the cities, Cal Fire, the county OES to coordinate their efforts in case of an emergency, Parkinson said.
“There’s an old saying that you can never be too prepared, and I think that is what this is all about,” the sheriff said. “The goal of the task force is to raise public awareness, increase collaboration and communication and establish San Luis Obispo County as the most prepared county in the country.”
Greg Pruett, PG&E senior vice president of corporate affairs, said all Central Coast residents needed to do to see the value of emergency preparedness was to watch the news about what Superstorm Sandy did to the East Coast.
Pruett said PG&E, like many utility companies all around the country, sent help in the aftermath of the storm. He said 600 employees, including 400 line crews, worked to re-establish power in the wake of the storm.
“Like yourselves,” Pruett said looking around a room filled with law enforcement and firefighters’ uniforms, “we look at our duty, in particular our line crews the hard hats the men and women who drive the blue trucks around the community, as being first responders and being essential to the community’s well being.”
He said the grant would be put to good use by the task force.
While the Central Coast isn’t susceptible to hurricanes, wildfires, floods and earthquakes have ravaged the area. And many of the people at the announcement were working when the San Simeon earthquake hit in 2003.
The magnitude 6.5-quake killed two people and destroyed parts of downtown Paso Robles, where Mecham served as mayor prior to his election to the county Board of Supervisors.
Alsop coordinated the county’s emergency response to that disaster and many of the massive wildfires that have burned large parts of the county over the past 20 years.
He listed the Las Pilitas fire that burned 75,000 acres in 1985, the Highway 41 Fire, which destroyed 42 homes, caused massive power outages and closed two highways in 1994, the San Simeon earthquake, and the effects of the earthquake and tsunami in Japan in 2011 as examples of how many different ways the Central Coast can be affected by disasters.
He said establishment of the task force can only help the county be more prepared in the event of the next disaster.
“What this will do is add to our emergency planning by having increased community awareness programs, having community agencies working even closer together. One of the things we’re fortunate to have in our county is a lot of volunteer groups and nonprofit organizations that are involved and can help in an emergency. What this will do is to bring all of these agencies together,” he said.