Supervisors Push to Improve Emergency Preparedness for Loma Prieta Community


SAN JOSE – The Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors voted Tuesday to direct County Administration, County Counsel, and the Office of Emergency Management to explore options for improving emergency services in the Loma Prieta area of the Santa Cruz Mountains.

County Supervisor Joe Simitian proposed options including updating emergency response plans, improving communication with residents, and ensuring that County services are properly equipped to provide prompt and comprehensive emergency services, including outfitting a new Sheriff’s Office substation with a generator suitable for providing extended power under emergency circumstances. His proposal was co-authored by outgoing Supervisor Mike Wasserman.

“Folks in the Loma Prieta community are resilient; they’re self-reliant. They know how to take care of themselves. But wildfires and disasters in California are getting worse,” said Simitian, who now represents the Loma Prieta area and sponsored the request. Recent redistricting decisions at the County put the Loma Prieta area into Simitian’s District (Five). “So,” said Simitian, “I’ve been visiting, listening, and learning a lot. And folks in the community have expressed a clear interest in working more closely with our County to upgrade emergency systems and planning.”

The more remote regions of Santa Clara County, like our communities in the Santa Cruz Mountains, face unique challenges with receiving emergency services, challenges which are different from those faced by residents of the County’s more populous cities and towns. During emergencies which often involve road closures and power outages due to downed power lines and trees, the Loma Prieta community is more difficult for emergency vehicles to access, and do so quickly.

In response to these challenges, the County hopes to strengthen connections with local groups such as the Loma Prieta Community Foundation, Mountain Emergency Response Corps, and Loma Prieta Volunteer Fire & Rescue. The County also hopes to improve communication with residents regarding available services and emergency plans.

In response to the proposal, Erin Asheghian, president of the Loma Prieta Joint Union School District,  and Sanjay Khandelwal, a member of the Loma Prieta Community Foundation Board, expressed appreciation to the Board of Supervisors for its support of an emergency response plan for the Loma Prieta community. The Board’s action, they said in a joint statement, will “ensure that our residents get the services they need and understand how and where those services will be delivered when the next emergency arises.”

As the area straddles both Santa Clara and Santa Cruz counties, there are plans in place for both Santa Clara and Santa Cruz County Sheriff’s Offices to co-locate in a substation housed in the new Community Center on the Loma Prieta Joint Union School District campus. Simitian said he wants to make sure that the Center is “properly equipped with a generator suitable for providing extended power in the event of an emergency.” Construction of the Community Center is scheduled to be completed in September 2023. “My hope,” said Simitian, “is that the County can step up sooner rather than later.”

“Trees fell and all major roads were blocked after the Loma Prieta Earthquake, causing days where anxious parents couldn’t reach their school-aged kids housed at our local school,” said Robin Porter, President of the Loma Prieta Community Foundation. “Power outages from PG&E rolling blackouts and storm outages cause residents to lose power for weeks. Our community also depends on emergency communications during these events,” she said.

“In addition,” said Porter, “the advent of electric cars and Zoom meetings has heightened the need for emergency power in times of disaster, outages, and extreme climate swings. Our elderly and compromised residents depend on heating and cooling stations during these times. The community emergency response plan depends on emergency power generation to be equipped to handle these needs. We look forward to working with Supervisor Simitian and the County Office of Emergency Management to prepare for these needs.”

“Loma Prieta residents don’t always know who they can reach out to before, during, and after a disaster,” said Simitian. “A clear plan of action, in our County and between our two counties, is vital for the safety of mountain residents.”


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