California city combines advanced technology with dedicated public safety team for comprehensive emergency management
The highly unusual circumstances of the past year have provided many new lessons for political leaders and emergency managers. The overarching lesson is that the unexpected can happen at any time and local, regional and national government must be prepared to respond rapidly in a collaborative manner with the private sector and residents.
Comprehensive emergency management must involve not only timely, effective responses, but also detailed and actionable communication, which includes life-safety information. State-of-the-art technology is playing a critical role in the U.S. and abroad, making it easier for multiple agencies and emergency personnel to work together to respond to and manage dangerous natural disasters, including wildfires, floods, tornadoes, hurricanes, earthquakes, tsunamis, extreme weather and other critical events.
A 20-year study of natural disasters by the Centre for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters (CRED) determined that, besides the immense financial costs, an average of 68,000 people lose their lives annually due to disasters, and more than 218 million others are impacted by these crisis situations.
In the California city of Mill Valley, just across the Golden Gate Bridge from San Francisco, the introduction of advanced emergency warning and communications technology provides residents and visitors a new way to receive emergency alerts and notifications. In July 2019, Mill Valley replaced the air raid sirens on five of its existing siren poles with a satellite-connected system consisting of outdoor, long-range speaker arrays operated by command-and-control software. These arrays broadcast highly audible alerts and detailed information and instructions over long distances. Most siren installations still used in many U.S. communities are incapable of delivering intelligible voice messages regarding the emergency or the specific actions the public should take to stay safe. The new speaker arrays have helped bring peace of mind to Mill Valley’s elected officials, emergency managers and residents.
“After the Oakland Hills fire, one of our priorities became procuring better methods to communicate with residents,” said Tom Welch, deputy chief of the Mill Valley Fire Department. “Not only does our new technology allow a proactive response, but it also enables us to better manage our communication during and after an emergency, assisting emergency responders and the entire community.”
The new equipment is IPAWS-compliant, works in tandem with other systems already in place and adds an important capability for community safety.
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