As a result of the East Bay Hills fire of 1991, the Standardized Emergency Management System (SEMS) was adopted. The components of SEMS were not new, but were simply identified as the consistent way to manage emergency response operations throughout California. Similarly, the federal government recently acknowledged a need for consistent emergency management protocols between the states. The federal National Incident Management System (NIMS) is significantly based on California's SEMS.
One aspect of SEMS involves the chain of communication to both request resources, as well as share information. The links in this chain are:
Field: This level is where the actual response occurs. Firefighters are putting out the fire or sandbags are being put in place. If the response personnel need resources beyond what they have with them in the field, a request is made to the next level up.
Local Jurisdiction: Supporting the field responders is the local jurisdiction, such as a city or county. At it's most basic, for day-to-day emergencies, this may be the 911 dispatch center. When the emergency is large enough, West Sacramento will open our Emergency Operations Center (EOC) to coordinate resources and requests allowing the dispatch center to focus on dispatch operations. If West Sacramento is unable to meet the need through its own resources and agreements already in place, a request is made to the next level up.
Operational Area: California law defines the Operational Area (OA) as all political jurisdictions within the boundaries of a given county. Given that response from close by is preferred to response from farther away, the resources needed are looked for first within the Operational Area. Since the OA does not exist, other than as a planning structure, somebody has to fill the role when needed. Typically, this is the county government. The Yolo County EOC, in addition to directly supporting operations in the unincorporated areas, acts as the Operational Area EOC to facilitate resource and information requests among the county, the cities, and the special districts. If the resource cannot be found within the OA, a request is made to the next level up.
Region: The California Emergency Management Agency (CalEMA) has divided California into six mutual aid regions, each of which is assigned to one of three administrative regions. Yolo County is in Mutual Aid Region IV, part of the administrative Inland Region. If the resource cannot be found within the Region, a request is made to the next level up.
State: At this point, the request is made to other regions in the state to find the resource needed.
Similar to the resource requests, information flows along the same chain. This allows CalEMA to know what is happening throughout the state, while keeping communications manageable. Similarly, they can distribute information down the chain.
Other aspects of SEMS include the Incident Command System (ICS), a structure for organizing a response. SEMS also includes the concept of Unified Command, where all agencies responding to the scene of an incident coordinate their actions as one plan, rather than multiple efforts all taking place in the same location.