By Assemblymember Marie Waldron
California is no stranger to natural and man-made emergencies. The recent quakes in Kern and San Bernardino Counties are another reminder that living in the Golden State has a price.
The State Constitution grants immense power to the Governor to deal with emergencies. The Governor’s Office of Emergency Services (OES), which began as the State War Council in 1943, coordinates California’s response to emergencies. A formal emergency declaration, which must include a detailed description of the existing situation in the effected region, sets in motion a wide range of emergency powers.
Among these are mobilization of the National Guard to support disaster relief, the suspension of laws and regulations that could hinder cleanup including the removal of debris and hazardous waste, streamlining the permitting process for waste discharge, emergency construction, timber harvesting and much more.
A declaration of emergency also opens up avenues to funding through grants and with the federal government.
The Governor can commandeer public and private property to ensure that all available resources are dedicated to the emergency. State agencies are empowered to procure materials, goods and services necessary for response. The OES can direct that fairgrounds and other state properties are made available as places to shelter persons being evacuated. Fees are suspended for replacement of official documents that have been damaged or lost such as driver’s licenses, or birth and marriage certificates. As we have just seen with the recent earthquakes, a state emergency declaration often leads to federal disaster assistance as well.
Government has a huge role to play when disasters strike, but so do all Californians. The prime responsibility for protecting ourselves and our families is ours. We need to be prepared, and have our emergency plans ready. The “big one,” in whatever form, is inevitable.
Assembly Republican Leader Marie Waldron, R-Escondido, represents the 75th Assembly District in the California Legislature, which includes the communities of Bonsall, Escondido, Fallbrook, Hidden Meadows, Pala, Palomar Mountain, Pauma Valley, Rainbow, San Marcos, Temecula, Valley Center and Vista.