This letter is in response to the April 24 editorial headlined, “Alphabet soup of emergency planning requires coordination.” We agree that there are many Coastsiders concerned about preparing themselves and the community for an emergency. Many people are active with different groups and there are numerous community-based organizations and government agencies that are ready, and available, to do their part and coordinate with other responders. The Community Preparedness Day that the county and city are hosting on Saturday, in downtown Half Moon Bay, is an example of bringing the community together to talk about how to effectively work together in an emergency. 

We disagree with the assessment, or concern, that county officials are not putting in the effort to do their part. The Office of Emergency Services in the San Mateo County Sheriff’s Office is an outstanding group of county employees who devote their lives to emergency response. This Office has more than eight employees who do nothing but coordinate with the cities, communities and citizens to prepare for the next inevitable emergency.

The city of Half Moon Bay contracts with the county Sheriff to provide additional training and service beyond its legally mandated responsibility. In the six months I have been here, my observation is that they perform this duty in a very competent and professional manner, and they are very prepared to lead the County Operational Area in the event of a regional and/or Coastside disaster.

Brian Molver from county OES has been doing this work for over 19 years. His office is located at the Sheriff substation in Half Moon Bay. He has been assigned to numerous disasters around the state and he draws on this experience in formulating his approach to successful emergency training and response. He is also keenly aware of errors in judgment that have been made in disasters and the lessons that can be learned from those mistakes.

His saying, “The universal plan: observe the situation, act decisively … and hope that all goes well” is a take on the OODA Loop model developed by the Air Force: Observe-Orient-Decide-Act. This process is a time-sensitive, feedback loop which you keep repeating as the situation changes based on your previous decisions and new events outside your control. There are several case studies from recent disasters in which people did not act decisively because they were concerned about making the wrong decision. This saying affords people in stressful situations the knowledge that not all is under their control, but that they still must decide and act on their decision. Molver’s educational approach is one that promotes critical thinking — another key ingredient to successful decision-making and emergency response.

We are very appreciative to have the county as a partner and are thrilled that the Half Moon Bay Review acknowledges the importance of emergency preparedness and is promoting this community conversation.

Bob Nisbet is the Half Moon Bay city manager.

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