Report Critical of State Emergency Preparedness
Exercises in California "have not exerted sufficient stress on medical and health systems to determine how well they can respond to emergencies," according to an emergency preparedness report Auditor Elaine Howle released on Tuesday, the Los Angeles Times reports.
The report found that a state disaster simulation conducted last year included 550 casualties, although a moderate emergency in California is estimated to involve about 10,000 casualties (Halper, Los Angeles Times, 9/13).
California Office of Homeland Security officials said the report evaluated only the two largest annual preparedness exercises conducted by the Department of Health Services and OHS. Chris Bertelli, a spokesperson for the office, added that local and state agencies' willingness to participate limits the size of preparedness drills (Hoffman, Oakland Tribune, 9/13).
The report found that state policies for disbursing federal homeland security funds are "not streamlined or well defined," adding that without reforms, "this labyrinthine structure could adversely affect emergency response."
Bertelli said the state is working to expedite the process (Los Angeles Times, 9/13).
The report also found that it was unclear what the responsibilities of state agencies are in a disaster.
Bertelli said agencies' roles had been clarified, including:
- DHS overseeing response to any disease outbreak;
- Office of Emergency Services managing all disaster response; and
- OHS overseeing risk-assessment and coordination with law enforcement agencies (Oakland Tribune, 9/13).