By Peter Marin of Santa Barbara
Last year, during a rather prolonged heat and possible fire period, there was much discussion at the county and city levels about the need for a coordinated response to such events, including the distribution of water and even hats to those in need, and the provision of cooling sites for those requiring them.
I am told by those involved — but I cannot be certain — that County Health accepted responsibility for coordinating such efforts and responses.
If so, or if anyone else was paying attention, why in the last two weeks, when temperatures were predicted to be 95 degrees in Santa Barbara and somewhat higher elsewhere in the county, and when five- to seven-day power outages were being discussed by Southern California Edison, was there no response whatsoever from anyone at the county or city levels of government in theory responsible for community safety or the common good?
Of course the homeless come quickly to mind in such crises. But even more importantly, God knows (or perhaps not) how many citizens in the city and county — poor, elderly, alone, ill, dependent on certain medical devices, unable to leave their homes — would be not only inconvenienced by also seriously endangered.
Clearly somebody somewhere has to take responsibility — whenever outages are threatened or whenever fire comes into play (maybe not the best of words, that one) — to provide immediate information accompanying outage warnings about where during heat emergencies people can go to be both cool and safe, even for several days, if necessary.
This, of course, also involves, among other things, the compilation of a list of sites where generators exist so that electricity and air conditioning are available and working throughout any crisis. SBCC? Local hospitals? Any high schools or city or county buildings? The jail? The sheriff’s office or police stations? Any shelters or, perish the though, posh hotels?
Every supervisor representing a district and every council member representing a district should be specifically responsible for informing consistuents. The general public has a right to be informed of all possible alternatives and options whenever extreme heat, outages or fire seem to be in the offing.
Is there even a plan for such eventualities that can be put into play immediately, or that can be described in advance so as to calm nerves and fears?
Such notices and the provisions of such information should obviously have been triggered in the past two weeks by both the soaring temperatures and the much publicized threat of outages.
Yet nothing, absolutely nothing, as far I know, came forth from any county entity or any city.
Why not? Who forgot their responsibilities? Who is actually responsible? Surely in the end it has to be both the county supervisors and those who oversee the county’s various cities whose job it is to see their departments and staff don’t screw up and actually do their jobs correctly.
We’re talking here about real and serious health issues, about actual danger and death. Surely the fires all around us, to the south and the north, should have reminded us of that.
And, yet, from all, so far, only silence.
This must not happen again. As I asked in another piece I recently wrote, who’s minding the store? I don’t think we know anymore.
The author lives in Santa Barbara.