Natural disasters such as earthquakes, wildfires and extreme weather have steadily increased over the years, making the work of first responders very critical in reducing loss of life and property.  

When a natural disaster strikes, county government has a role in safeguarding its communities. In many disaster situations, members of the public report these occurrences by dialing 911. Thereafter, police and fire respond to the incident. In other cases, the county may receive a warning from state and federal agencies and the San Bernardino County Office of Emergency Service (OES) will coordinate amplification of public messaging, assess the emergency situation and help coordinate resources to respond to it.  

The OES team utilizes the Standard Emergency Management System to leverage support and assistance from neighboring agencies and the state, which may include personnel or equipment.   

Depending on the magnitude of the disaster, county officials may declare a local emergency if it is determined that the disaster exceeds the county’s capacity to respond and recover. The county can request financial assistance and other resources through the state to help mitigate and recover from the disaster. Additionally, the governor may also declare a state of emergency, which allows the state to seek federal funding assistance when it has exhausted its capacity to respond to the emergency.  

Once life and safety concerns of a disaster have been mitigated, first responders and other service professionals begin removing debris, repairing roads and restoring essential services such as water and electricity, which may have been interrupted during the disaster event. While those activities are occurring, the county, in partnership with disaster organizations including the American Red Cross, provide essential services to displaced residents at shelter locations. Additionally, the county may establish Local Assistance Centers to link impacted residents with a one-stop shop to access information and services to assist with recovery. Commodity Point of Distribution (CPOD) sites may be opened to offer essential items such as food, water, baby items and animal feed.   

OES will continue the recovery phase, which tends to be a longer-term process. During this phase, damage information is collected and assessed in coordination with state and federal partners to assist with determining potential cost recovery opportunities including Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) support.  

“In all, it takes a collective effort from federal, state, local governments and the community at large to recover from a major natural disaster,” said Deputy Executive Officer Daniel Munoz. “Sometimes it may take years to restore a community to its new normal. Ultimately, the goal is to become a more resilient community by preparing ahead of disasters.”   

For emergency preparedness tips, please visit

Additional County Update News – September 15, 2023

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