The 2019 Marin County Resident Survey confirmed emergency preparedness as a top priority. Marin Office of Emergency Services (OES), based at the Sheriff’s Office at 1600 Los Gamos Drive in San Rafael, provides emergency management services for the county and the surrounding operational area including its 11 cities and towns and more than 300 special districts. OES develops guidelines for emergency preparedness, response, recovery and mitigation to natural disasters, man-made incidents and technological threats. It serves as the liaison between the state and all local government subdivisions.
The past few years have shown that wildfires are a growing threat for all California communities. Since fire knows no jurisdictional boundaries, the County is working with cities, towns and other fire agencies to implement a countywide wildfire prevention program that enhances protection for all Marin residents. Additionally, a partnership between Marin County Fire and Marin County Parks adds an additional fire crew for the next two years to enhance vegetation management efforts on open space lands throughout the County.
Meanwhile, Pacific Gas and Electric has expanded its Public Safety Power Shutoff (PSPS) program into the Bay Area, including Marin – a precautionary measure to help reduce the risk of wildfires by turning off electricity in the interest of public safety if certain conditions are met. The PSPS program will become part of our “new normal” as accelerating climate change has led to larger, costlier, and more frequent wildfires in the state than ever before, burning almost year-round.
County residents also face new threats in the form of sea level rise and climate change. The County proclaimed a local state of emergency on February 15, 2019 because of the severe impacts of storm damage largely focused in the baylands of eastern Novato, directly south of Highway 37. The County has prioritized climate change adaptation in recent years and is assessing current and future effects of sea level rise, including a focused assessment of Highway 37 between Highway 101 and the Petaluma River to help recommend improvements that will increase resiliency to the flood-prone corridor.
The importance of broad and effective resident communication has never been greater. When asked to rate the Board’s five current budget priorities by importance, nearly 90 percent of respondents prioritized disaster preparedness as an essential or a very important priority. Alert systems such as Alert Marin, are critical to resident safety and ongoing efforts are needed to increase the number of subscribers and to coordinate the messaging of the various alert services.
Alert Marin Registrations by Zip Code
The chart below shows the percentage of Marin County households subscribed to Alert Marin notifications, by zip code. Looking at this chart, County officials can identify the areas in Marin with low registration rates and enhance outreach efforts to increase the number of subscribers.
In spring 2020, the Marin community came together to “flatten the curve” in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic. The County partnered with the Marin Community Foundation to create a $2 million COVID-19 Fund, providing over $1.6 million in rental assistance programs. The County also worked with the Marin Office of Education to establish a childcare program for essential workers, opened up libraries as a resource for teens, and partnered with local organizations to deliver food to residents in need. In March 2020, the Board of Supervisors passed an eviction moratorium that prevents County residents and business owners from being evicted because of a sudden loss of income tied to the COVID-19 pandemic. The moratorium was in effect until May 31 and applies to all of Marin, including cities, towns, and unincorporated areas.
Helping our most vulnerable residents is the County’s primary concern and the recent pandemic affirmed the need for staff to be prepared to serve our communities. As public servants in California, all County employees are considered Disaster Services Workers (DSW’s) and have been deployed to serve in the Emergency Operations Center, Department Operations Center or in neighborhoods and communities.
In early May 2020, the community launched “Marin Recovers,” a collaborative effort led by the Board of Supervisors to engage our community businesses in an effort to develop guidelines to help businesses reopen and comply with public health safety best practices. This diverse team of stakeholders, including large and small businesses, incorporated equity and other components of a well-rounded team to provide recommendations about how an industry could open in compliance with health officer orders.