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Emergency Preparedness Summit Welcomes San Diego County Decision Makers

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San Diego Emergency Services interagency cooperation
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Wildfires, tsunamis, earthquakes, drought, terrorism. San Diego needs to be prepared. On May 19, SDG&E joined the San Diego Regional Fire Foundation in welcoming more than 120 leaders throughout San Diego County to the San Diego Regional Emergency Preparedness & Fire Summit.

The morning workshop included participants from fire, police, U.S. Navy, state and local government agencies, businesses, universities, and nonprofits and shared information on San Diego’s readiness of various emergency service agencies and emerging technologies.

Joan Jones, the Fire Foundation Executive Director, served as the moderator and noted that a common theme from all speakers was that a successful emergency response depends on agencies and the community working together by establishing strong relationships prior to a major regional disaster. Speakers also emphasized the growth of interagency collaboration in San Diego since the 2003 and 2007 wildfires.

Held at SDG&E’s Energy Innovation Center, speakers included:

  • SDG&E’s Chief Operating Officer Caroline Winn welcomed all attendees and discussed SDG&E’s emphasis on collaboration, safety and the use of technology.
  • Fire Foundation Chairman Frank Ault addressed the history of rural fire service in San Diego County and the formation, mission, and accomplishments of the Fire Foundation.
  • San Diego County Supervisor Ron Roberts shared all that the County has accomplished since the 2003 Cedar Fire including forming the County Fire Authority, partnering with CalFire, purchasing fire apparatus, fire station upgrades, and establishing paid paramedic service in many rural fire stations.
  • SDG&E’s Sr. Vice President of Electric Operations David Geier detailed plans to replace many of the wood power poles in high fire risk areas with concrete or steel poles to minimize electric power disruptions and fire risk.
  • CalFire Southern Region Chief Thom Porter spoke about statewide emergency preparedness for any type of an emergency including how CalFire responds with equipment throughout the state as needed, and how it pre-positions equipment in areas where fire conditions are extreme.
  • International Association of Fire Chiefs Chief Program & Technology Officer Tommy Hicks discussed national emergency preparedness best practices and improvements made locally in the last 14 years. He also stated that San Diego is one of the best prepared regions of the U.S.
  • USD Nonprofit Institute’s Executive Director Emily Young, PhD described the current understanding of how climate change will impact weather, disasters, and our economy.
  • SDG&E’s Meteorologist Brian D’Agostino discussed SDG&E’s weather stations which are positioned throughout rural San Diego County that provide firefighters immediate feedback in areas where a fire has ignited. This information is also used to create a fire danger index.
  • Technosylva’s CEO Joaquin Ramirez and Vice President Dave Buckley demonstrated how their advanced computer systems can predict a fire’s movement using historical fire patterns, fuel information, and data from the SDG&E weather stations. This predicative model will enable fire commanders to identify optimal personnel placements.
  • U.S. Navy Region Southwest Director of Operations Gerral David detailed how military resources can, or cannot, be utilized in responding to an emergency situation in the civilian community.  He stated that the San Diego region has the most advanced set of agreements in place to provide military support when there are lives at stake and needed assets are not available from other sources.

Summits like this provide the community with a window into collaborations that improve safety response throughout our county, and emphasize how very lucky we are to be here. And, as Navy Director David said, “We are all in this together. There are still holes in our planning that we won’t know about until something happens.”

Participants overwhelmingly agreed that community education about San Diego’s state of preparedness and instruction on what individuals, families, and businesses can do to be prepared and respond during a disaster is critical. They requested that the Foundation hold future Summits.