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Santa Barbara County officials discuss disaster messaging, lessons learned

It’s been nearly five months since the deadly Montecito mudslide, but emergency managers are still discussing the best ways to warn the public of impending danger.

The Office of Emergency Management met with the National Weather Service to form an Integrated Warning Team.

The purpose is to discuss how to improve messaging and lessons learned following the natural disaster.

“There are a variety of things going on in people’s mind during an evacuation process and we have to figure out how to say despite all that, despite all the impacts in your life that you are going to have to still evacuate because it’s a matter of life and death,” said Office of Emergency Management Director Robert Lewin.

They also discussed the results of a survey taken by those who were impacted by the mudslides.

“We have got to get a message out to the public that can be understood and this is really difficult we found out,” said Lewin. “During the 1/9 debris flow and the subsequent evacuations is we’re using terminology that the public may not be aware of and now we’ve got to educate the public and we’ve got to make them believe this is a serious situation.”

Eric Boldt with the National Weather Service says forecasters are working to figure out how to better communicate the impacts of a debris flow.

“Maybe they didn’t see it on their social media or internet page, or maybe they didn’t get that phone call, so maybe reaching out to them face-to-face maybe in a neighborhood kiosk,” said Boldt. “Different means of getting that information to people so that they understand the threat.”

Today was the first meeting of its kind. Lewin says the Office of Emergency Management will provide an education program on the impacts of a debris flow. That will be available to the public next fall

Emergency management also encourages you to participate in the survey. Click here for the survey.

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