Tulare County in California’s Central Valley is home to some of America’s most beautiful and popular public lands, including Sequoia and Kings National Parks. These parks attract well over a million visitors annually. In addition to its stunning landscapes, Tulare County is also the second-leading producer of agricultural commodities, including dairy products, fruit and cattle, in the U.S.
Tulare County is also among the regions dealing with the consequences of prolonged drought conditions in the state, including an increase in dangerous wildfire activity.
In 119 years of recorded history, 2013 was the driest calendar year for California, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. Trends are looking similarly concerning for 2014.
Already, the National Interagency Fire Center has stated there is “above-normal fire potential” for “much of California” this month and next month. San Diego County has already battled devastating wildfires in recent weeks that forced tens of thousands of citizens from their homes. Data shows the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection has already responded to more than 1,500 fires this year, compared with about 800 during an average season.
We spoke with Andrew Lockman, Emergency Services Manager for Tulare County, to understand the incident response challenges his staff faced and how the County today is better prepared to protect day-to-day public safety thanks to Everbridge’s Unified Critical Communication Suite.
Given its size and importance as both a center of agriculture and tourism, Tulare County needed an automated and streamlined way to enable departments, cities, agencies and organizations in the county to send operational, incident and emergency messages to residents and staff. Here’s more from the Q&A:
Q: HOW HAS THE INCIDENT RESPONSE PROCESS CHANGED FOR THE COUNTY?
Before we implemented the (Everbridge) system, we would have an incident commander or a hazmat team arrive on scene and decide that a message needed to be sent. Then they would call dispatch, someone sitting in an office, and try to describe to them what message needed to be sent, and where it needed to go. From there, dispatch would have to draw on a map based off of their interpretation of what was said. They’d probably have to go back two or three times because they forgot to ask a question.
Now, our responders have a mobile app. Our incident commanders pull out their phone, put in their password, and say, second alarm call back or third alarm call back, off duty personnel call back, hazmat call out, or SWAT call out. They can click that template and hit send. They don’t have to do any guesswork. Better yet, when they’re on scene they can punch in their address, put in a 500- or 1,000-foot radius, and send a message. They can actually pick up on their phone and say, “This is the Chief, we’re out on this incident, you need to shelter in place,” and those contacts hear the voice of the responder standing on the corner.
Read more of our interview with Andrew to learn how Tulare County managed the wide variety of message senders and topics, improved public safety and awareness, and better served the needs of its diverse population.