In a Viewpoint published in The Tribune on July 17, San Luis Obispo Mayor Jan Marx criticized our local emergency responders.
She claimed our responders are not “trained or equipped” to protect our communities in the face of an emergency.
I believe Mayor Marx is out of touch.
Our local emergency responders risk their lives to protect us, and they also dedicate years to preparing for the potential emergencies our communities face.
Considering the extensive and ongoing training our emergency responders receive, I can’t imagine they aren’t adequately prepared for any natural or man-made situation.
San Luis Obispo County’s emergency response teams are highly trained specialists in the areas of law enforcement, medical response, firefighting, hazardous material response and air support.
These experts are trained to work together to respond to any crisis in our county.
Because these jobs are extremely competitive, candidates undergo rigorous training that teaches them the emergency technical skills they need. This qualifies individuals to handle situations ranging from medical emergencies to wildfires and anything in between.
For example, most future firefighters have at least two-year degrees in fire science from community colleges before they attend the California Fire Academy.
Afterward, they spend thousands of hours accruing technical certifications before they even apply to local fire departments.
Our firefighters on the Central Coast dedicate nearly 83,000 hours to training each year to ensure they have the skills they need to be ready at a moment’s notice.
In addition to annual recertifications, many firefighters have additional certifications — becoming a paramedic takes about a year and is in addition to the firefighter certification, and hazardous materials certification requires a year of college chemistry combined with hands-on technical skills in mitigating emergency situations.
Combined with their training, our local fire departments have partnered with San Luis Obispo County companies to ensure that emergency medical technicians and fire crews stand ready to protect us against any disaster.
Each year, firefighters spend thousands of hours on simulated disasters, learning how to defuse explosive or hazardous materials. Working together, they have ensured that employees are protected by the most advanced safety measures in the industry. But their training does not end there.
Local firefighters receive some of the best training in the world alongside National Guardsmen at the California Specialized Training Institute at Camp San Luis Obispo.
A component of the Governor’s Office of Emergency Services, with oversight by the California Department of Homeland Security, this institute has been internationally recognized for over 40 years as a leading center for disaster control.
Over 500,000 graduates from across the country have been certified in the latest emergency response techniques at CSTI.
Our county employs over 3,000 protective service professionals, including hundreds of volunteers.
In 2009 alone, they responded to more than 10,000 emergencies in San Luis Obispo County.
Thanks to their training, teams on the Central Coast are some of the fastest in the nation, with response times averaging one minute or less.
These dedicated public servants implement their years of training all across our county by partnering with local scientists and experts.
At the Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission works closely with local leaders to develop emergency response plans to any number of potential disasters.
Along our highways, airports, harbors and train routes, local fire and emergency responders work closely with operators and their emergency crews. Together, they ensure safety is a top priority and all potential risks are kept to a minimum.
In rural parts of the county, the San Luis Obispo Sheriff’s Office has worked closely with local fire crews to develop detailed emergency response plans, especially in the face of our ongoing drought. This partnership has kept our communities safe for decades — and we’re seeing it at work right now with crews fighting the Cuesta Fire, in which they’re facing numerous threats — falling trees, thick brush, hot temperatures and strong winds make their jobs deadly.
This well-organized coalition is only possible with extensive planning, executed by the fire crews and their years of training and preparation.
Despite Jan Marx’s doubts, these men and women are our first line of defense in the face of emergencies. They protect our communities and give us peace of mind.
It’s clear the brave and hardworking individuals of San Luis Obispo County’s emergency services are more than qualified to meet any challenge.