February 20, 2011 (San Diegio) – Sen. Christine Kehoe (D-San Diego) announced this week that the State Auditor will conduct an investigation of California’s mutual aid response system to learn if budget cuts are undermining the program. Kehoe requested the audit at a Feb. 16 meeting of the Joint Legislative Audit Committee.
“Our mutual aid system, which was created in 1950 and has been a model for the country, is facing challenges as state and local governments slash their budgets,” Kehoe said. “If this system is further strained, it could jeopardize public safety during wildfires, earthquakes, floods, or mudslides. We can’t afford to let that happen.”
The mutual aid system ensures that additional resources are provided to local governments whenever their own resources are overwhelmed or inadequate during an emergency.
The audit is expected to be completed in seven to eight months. Among other things, it will be tasked with determining whether some cities and counties receive more benefits than others under mutual aid and whether delayed reimbursements from the state or federal government are discouraging cities and counties from responding to mutual aid requests.
As the former Chair of the Joint Legislative Committee on Emergency Management, Kehoe held hearings in September 2009 and November 2010 that revealed many local governments were unable to send as many personnel and trucks to disasters because of budget cuts, as ECM reported. Former San Diego City's Fire Chief Tracy Jarman testified that she no longer could send the same number of strike teams to assist other jurisdictions under mutual aid and still have sufficient resources to protect her own city.