California, like states across the country, is drawing on the lessons of the pandemic to think differently about disaster planning, so that the next statewide crisis will be less severe, less deadly. Here’s what we know: COVID-19 has shown that California’s disaster response system must be modernized.
California has proven itself when responding to natural disasters on a local and regional basis. For example, when the 2017 Tubbs Fire devastated parts of Santa Rosa, the state’s mutual aid response system kicked in, with first responders and health care facilities from other parts of Northern California providing assistance and support as patients were either evacuated or triaged locally, depending on need. The same has always been true when earthquakes strike — the damage and injuries resulting from a major quake are most directly experienced in the immediate geographic area, not the entire state, and people can be evacuated to safe areas for care and refuge.