Audit Finds Calif. More Prepared for Disasters

     SACRAMENTO, Calif. (CN) – California has drastically improved its emergency response programs and is better equipped to protect the state’s 39 million residents from natural disasters and disease outbreaks, the state auditor said Thursday.
     The audit highlighted the California Department of Public Health and the Governor’s Office of Emergency Services for developing specific training programs with improved monitoring measures of their employees’ progress over the last two years.
     In 2013, state auditor Elaine Howle blasted the state for failing to have comprehensive emergency plans or training objectives regarding California’s preparedness for earthquakes and public health emergencies. In her 2013 audit, Howle recommended the state’s emergency preparedness be designated as an area of high risk due to the agencies’ training and budget shortfalls.
     In a 15-page report released Thursday, Howle credited the departments for implementing specific employee training programs and suggested the state’s emergency preparedness programs no long be listed as high risk.
     “Because of its progress on strategic planning, training and sustained capabilities, we conclude that public health has sufficiently improved its level of emergency preparedness to warrant removal from our state high risk program,” the audit states.
     The audit’s release Thursday coincided with the Golden State’s yearly statewide earthquake drill known as the “Great Shakeout,” where residents simulate and practice their response to an actual earthquake and other disasters – both natural and manmade, like a terrorist attack. Officials expect millions of residents and students to participate in the annual drill, especially communities in the San Francisco Bay Area and Southern California prone to major earthquakes.
     The Bay Area has been hit with several earthquakes over the last week, including a magnitude 3.4 quake near San Ramon in the East Bay on Thursday. More than two dozen smaller temblors have struck the Bay Area over the last week.
     Howle attributed part of the agencies’ improved emergency preparedness to better state and federal funding. Over the last three years, federal funding has stabilized and allowed departments to sustain its training and reporting capabilities, according to the audit.
     The audit also applauds the state’s response to the December 2014 measles outbreak that started at Disneyland and quickly spread across the country. Howle also credits the state with preparing a detailed report of its reaction to the 2012 Chevron Richmond refinery fire that injured five employees and hospitalized 14,000 Richmond area residents.

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