Riverside County is re-organizing its emergency and disaster service agencies. The new Emergency Management Department will be composed of two public health agencies — the Emergency Preparedness and Response Branch and the Emergency Medical Services Agency — and the Office of Emergency Services from the county Fire Department.
“Through discussions among staff and administrators, it was felt that it made sense to combine offices doing that kind of planning and emergency-preparedness work,” said Ray Smith, the county public information officer.
As the county’s official emergency response manager, Jay Orr, county executive officer, established a task force to “look at the current structure and how the county could do a better job and best performance,” said George Johnson, assistant CEO.
It is a model for the 21st Century, 3rd District Supervisor Chuck Washington said. “There’s perception that the way we’re doing this is not a model for how to do it right,” Washington said. For example, he said the Emergency Operation Command is in a basement and needs an upgrade of communications equipment.
In the submittal to the Board of Supervisors, Michael Stock, county Human Resources director, said, “The stand-alone department will organizationally streamline routine and emergency-crisis management under the county executive officer.”
The three agencies serve different constituencies and this change will bring all emergency services under one department head. OES works mostly with local governments, special districts and tribal entities, as well as first responders to emergencies.
Clientele for the two public health agencies are largely hospitals, EMS providers, community clients and medical personnel.
Idyllwild Fire Chief Patrick Reitz was supportive of the idea, too. In an email, he wrote, “The concept of a County Emergency Management Department centralizing what is spread over several county departments is a welcome change and streamlining of county departmental operations.”
The board also established the position of director of emergency management to oversee the new agency. It will be effective July 1, the beginning of the new fiscal year, Smith added.
Stock also wrote that the “reorganization is necessary to codify the county’s emergency management into a single, comprehensive, all-hazards program.” The county also believes the consolidation will improve its chances for emergency management and preparedness grants.