More Than 60 Deaths in Fires, Floods Exposes Weaknesses in California's Emergency Planning

(TNS) — A reckoning on public preparedness long in the making is underway in California after a year that saw unprecedented death, destruction and loss from disasters set off by extreme weather.

Though California has long experienced natural disasters tied to weather, the last year recorded a staggering human toll — more than 40 dead in wine country fires and more than 20 in Santa Barbara County mudslides.

California Needs New Laws to Boost Earthquake Safety, Assemblyman Says

(TNS) -- A Los Angeles lawmaker says California needs new statewide laws that boost earthquake safety, and wants to toughen rules on how strong new buildings should be and require cities to identify buildings at risk of collapse.

Assemblyman Adrin Nazarian (D-North Hollywood) said the bills are important for keeping California functioning after a major earthquake.

Sonoma County, Calif., Learns Bitter Lessons from Deadly Fire, Adopts Reforms

Sonoma County, which lost 25 lives in last October’s wildfires, has changed the ways in which it alerts residents after scathing criticism for not using cellphone alerts during the devasting fires last fall.

The then emergency manager and others decided against sending out mass alerts because they believed they could not adequately target who received the messages and didn’t want to “over-alert.” They felt that doing so could lead people who were safe to evacuate into a more dangerous area or cause severe traffic.

Good News on Opioid Usage for a Change – it’s Down in California Workers’ Comp

Efforts to curb the use of opioids in California’s workers’ compensation system appear to be paying off.

New research from the California Workers’ Compensation Institute on prescription drugs used to treat injured workers shows that opioids now account for less than a quarter of all workers’ comp prescriptions in the state, down from nearly a third a decade ago.

Irma Caused 129 Deaths, More Than $53 Billion in Damages, Hurricane Center Concludes

(TNS) - After six months of chasing down and documenting the death and destruction Hurricane Irma left behind from the eastern Caribbean to the Carolinas, the National Hurricane Center released its report on Monday.

It underscores the wide swath of damage left behind by the massive storm, which brought wind and storm surge to much of Florida last September.

At least 129 deaths are attributed to the storm, either directly or indirectly. Irma's powerful storm surge, seas, winds and flooding were directly responsible for 44 deaths, concluded the team of three hurricane specialists who wrote the report, John Cangialosi, Andrew Latto and Robbie Berg. At least another 85 deaths were indirectly related to the storm.

4 Ways to Reduce Long-Term Risk in Municipal IT Systems (Contributed)

For most municipal governments right now, times are good. Sales tax revenues are way up, and property values are also reaching new highs — thereby increasing municipal revenues. This stands of course in stark contrast to the brutal Great Recession a decade ago, when collapsing home values, unemployment and plunging sales tax revenues forced cities and counties to make painful cost-cutting decisions.

California Spent $1.8B Fighting 2017 Wildfires

California state agencies spent nearly $1.8 billion fighting fierce wildfires that killed dozens of people and destroyed thousands of homes and businesses last year, legislative budget experts reported Thursday.

The federal government will reimburse most of the costs, but the state will still need to come up with about $371 million on top of the state’s existing wildfire budget, the Legislative Analyst’s Office told the Senate Budget committee. That shouldn’t be a problem because state revenue has far exceeded expectations so far this fiscal year and the general fund is flush with cash.

California Fire Officials Request $100 Million to Fix Mutual-Aid System

(TNS) - California fire officials asked lawmakers Tuesday for $100 million to improve the state’s strained mutual-aid system, which is designed to quickly rally first responders in an emergency, such as the deadly fires that ravaged the North Bay last year.

At a legislative hearing in Sacramento, fire chiefs and emergency officials said wildfires across the state last year exposed shortcomings in the 60-year-old system.