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California State Auditor Report Number : 2015-612

High-Risk Update—Emergency Preparedness
California Has Improved Its Emergency Preparedness



In our 2013 assessment of the high-risk issues facing the State, we identified the State’s emergency preparedness as a remaining area of high risk. Two key agencies—the California Department of Public Health (Public Health) and the California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services (Emergency Services)—lacked fully developed strategic plans and faced challenges in meeting some objectives.

We found the following in regard to issues we previously identified as posing a high risk to the State:

Public Health has sufficiently improved its level of emergency preparedness:

Emergency Services has sufficiently improved its emergency planning efforts:

Results in Brief

The California Department of Public Health (Public Health) and the California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services (Emergency Services) have made progress in preparing the State for emergencies. Because of their improvements, we do not believe emergency preparedness at Public Health and Emergency Services should continue to be designated as a statewide high risk issue under our state high risk program.

In our September 2013 high risk report, we noted that Public Health did not have a fully developed strategic plan, and that the plan did not contain any specific performance measures with which to gauge its success in achieving the strategic plan’s goals. Public Health’s emergency preparedness office (preparedness office) is responsible for coordinating the planning and other efforts to prepare Californians for public health emergencies. Based on our current reassessment, Public Health has begun to use specific measures to monitor its progress toward achieving its objectives. For example, Public Health is measuring its emergency preparedness office’s progress in meeting an objective to train at least 48 employees in key positions on emergency response teams by December 31, 2016. In addition, Public Health has begun using an improved system for tracking the training provided to all of its employees. Furthermore, Public Health uses federal tools, such as an assessment of 23 capabilities, to assess its readiness for emergencies. Finally, over the past three years its federal funding has stabilized and Public Health reports that it is now able to sustain its emergency preparedness capabilities. 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.

At the time of our last high risk reassessment, Emergency Services was in a position similar to Public Health: still in the process of developing performance measures, planning to update its strategic plan, and creating a performance evaluation system. Emergency Services is now in a better position to fulfill its stated mission: to protect lives and property by preparing for, protecting against, responding to, recovering from, and mitigating the impacts of all hazards and threats. As of this update, Emergency Services has put in place clearly defined goals, which include plans to mitigate disasters throughout the State and strengthen its internal capabilities. To measure its progress toward achieving these goals, Emergency Services has developed detailed objectives and key performance indicators for its offices to report on regularly. In its first year of implementation, Emergency Services has reported on the status of almost 400 objectives. In addition, Emergency Services recently began reporting on some of its key performance indicators. For example, Emergency Services established an indicator measuring its Response and Recovery Branches’ overall success in completing branch objectives and found that 73 percent of the Response Branch’s 123 objectives and 78 percent of the Recovery Branch’s nine objectives were on time or completed. Based on its updated goals and progress measures, we conclude that Emergency Services has sufficiently improved its level of emergency preparedness.

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