Late Thursday afternoon, Nov. 30, Riverside County announced that the Mountain Emergency Services Committee, commonly known as MEMSCOMM, has been “disbanded.” This decision would be effective the next day, Friday, Dec. 1.
In an email, Jerry Hagen, emergency services coordinator for Riverside County’s Supervisory District 3, reported that Supervisor Chuck Washington’s staff, as well as the County Emergency Management Division had participated in the decision.
Brian Tisdale, Washington’s legislative assistant for public safety, confirmed he had been involved and explained that the attendance at the meetings had steadily declined.
“Just having another meeting, it was not worth it. There are other venues available for this information,” Tisdale said.
Hagen encouraged people to attend the Mountain Area Safety Taskforce and the Mountain Disaster Preparedness Group meetings for similar information of value to Hill volunteer groups.
These “additional emergency preparedness meetings are held on the mountain, administered and maintained by both response agencies and by local community members,” he said. “These groups, as well as others, more than adequately cover everything that MEMSCOMM was originally intended to do.”
This year, Hagen had switched from monthly MEMSCOMM meetings to quarterly as a way of propping up the attendance, but it was unsuccessful. From full rooms of 30 to 35 people, the sessions have declined to fewer than 10 regular attendees.
“Over the last year, the Emergency Management Department held four meetings in Idyllwild, with minimal attendance. On two occasions there was no attendance,” Hagen wrote in an email.
Idyllwild Fire Chief Patrick Reitz said the decision did not surprise him. “This has been an on-and-off subject almost since I came here in 2012,” he noted.
At its height of popularity, attendees from all the Hill communities — Poppet Flats to Piñyon and Anza were involved. As the decline started, Hagen offered to rotate the meetings to different communities, Reitz noted, but that did not stimulate more participation, which was largely provided by the Idyllwild Volunteer Company and Mountain Disaster Preparedness Group.