County gets an A+ for emergency readiness

The San Luis Obispo County Civil Grand Jury has given high marks to the county’s level of emergency preparedness.

The independent watchdog panel decided to review the county’s emergency preparedness procedures following the 2011 earthquake and tsunami in Japan that caused a nuclear meltdown and disaster at the Fukushima Dai-ichi plant.

Grand jurors conducted an in-depth review of the operations of the county’s Office of Emergency Services that spanned many months and included more than 100 written questions and numerous follow-up questions, according to Ron Alsop, county emergency services manager.

Earlier this week, the grand jury issued a 16-page report, titled “San Luis Obispo County Emergency Readiness,” that applauded the level of planning and training.

“Throughout San Luis Obispo County, the Grand Jury found a high level of readiness in emergency planning,” the report concluded. “The OES, other relevant government agencies, PG&E and volunteer organizations have plans and tools to promote public safety in the event of an emergency.”

On the down side, the grand jury found that most residents of San Luis Obispo County have little knowledge about what to do in an emergency, a deficiency that “may inadvertently thwart the efforts of the emergency planners.”

The report recommends that residents participate in the Community Emergency Response Team training programs that are available in some communities in the county.

One of the reasons the level of emergency preparedness is so high in the county is the presence of Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant.

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission and the Federal Emergency Management Agency require emergency preparedness planning that can also be used for non-nuclear emergencies such as earthquakes and wildfires.

The county OES has 51⁄2 fulltime employees with 41⁄4 of those funded by fees the state collects from Diablo Canyon. A similar-sized county without a nuclear plant would have about half as many emergency services planners, Alsop said.

The report is available at slocourts.net/grand_jury.