EOC 101: Introduction

Preparing Petaluma and Keeping Our Community Safe

Have you ever wondered what happens when a City declares a “State of Emergency?” Most people go about their daily lives without thoughts of potential crisis—until something unexpected throws the world askew.

That’s where City government comes in. It’s our job to make sure there are systems in place that address an emergency quickly should the unlikely occur. Whether flood, earthquake, wildfire, or pandemic strikes, the City and its workers are prepared to protect you and your property. In fact, we continually plan and prepare for this eventuality!

Each department has written plans and protocols in place that specify roles and responsibilities for every kind of emergency; plans that address how to communicate without power, set up shelters on short notice, clear debris and more. Protocols are reviewed regularly, and response drills are practiced at least once each year by City personnel.

If a state of emergency is declared, there is an immediate shift in how City government operates. For starters, all government employees within the jurisdiction become emergency service workers. This means City staff must be prepared to secure their families and report for duty if an emergency occurs.  In addition, City personnel are often tasked with doing different jobs beyond the scope of their usual work.

These plans, and the City staff that implement them, constitute an Emergency Operation Center (EOC). In addition to the City, other jurisdictions (County, State or other Agency) all set up their teams with similar plans and procedures for working together. We even have contingency plans in case staff gets sick or are otherwise unable to report for duty. The goal is to coordinate quickly so we can work together and respond as seamlessly as possible.

There are five main arteries of organizational structure that City officials coordinate during a State of Emergency: Management, Logistics, Operations, Planning, and Finance. In the weeks ahead, we will introduce you to the individuals who occupy these crucial roles, and explain what they do.

Be assured our staff is working tirelessly behind-the-scenes to protect the community during the COVID-19 emergency. We enforce rules established by the County Health Officer, anticipate and respond to needs like caring for our shelterless populations, purchasing protective equipment for our first responders, and keeping the public informed with the latest up-to-date information available.

This pandemic presents unique challenges due to its long-term nature, and because many of our staff must work remotely as we adhere to the shelter-in-place order. To keep the business of local government functional, we’ve learned how to operate a “virtual EOC” that meets three times a week. We’ve also developed ways to transmit essential City services (including virtual City Council and Board of Supervisors meetings) without the benefit of our physical City Hall offices.

It’s important to remember we are all just ordinary people responding to extraordinary circumstances, and doing our best to keep the community safe and informed. We appreciate your patience as we navigate in these uncertain times. We are all Petaluma Strong together!

photo of staff checking manhole
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