Homeland Security Watch

News and analysis of critical issues in homeland security

May 17, 2006

San Francisco gets a homeland security audit

Filed under: State and Local HLS — by Christian Beckner on May 17, 2006

The San Francisco Board of Supervisors issued a lengthy report this week (warning: large file) that audits the city’s Office of Emergency Services. The San Francisco Chronicle summarizes the report in this story, and the Office of Emergency Services’ response to the report is here. From the Chronicle’s story:

The city office responsible for planning and coordinating emergency preparation and response in San Francisco has quadrupled in size and grown management-heavy since two years ago, when Mayor Gavin Newsom appointed a new director, the Board of Supervisors’ budget analyst found during a monthslong audit of how the agency is run.

Since Newsom named Annemarie Conroy to take over the Office of Emergency Services, the agency has managed more than $82 million in federal and state Homeland Security grants — and most of its spending has been directed at increasing the size of Conroy’s staff from six to 25 full-time positions.

The highly critical 172-page report of the audit findings by the supervisors’ budget analyst, Harvey Rose — scheduled to be made public Monday and the focus of a City Hall hearing Wednesday — says the hiring resulted in a workforce with an “unacceptable” 40 percent of staff designated as management while comparatively little of the money was put into emergency training.

“It’s deeply troubling,” said Board of Supervisors President Aaron Peskin, who requested the audit last fall. “Frankly, it confirms a lot of what people thought….”

While acknowledging progress in updating the city’s 10-year-old disaster plan, the audit report criticizes the Office of Emergency Services for having not done enough to prepare San Francisco for a catastrophic event. It also rips the agency’s fiscal practices and points out that Conroy’s post may be redundant and could be eliminated altogether….

Even the most basic levels of emergency preparedness in the city are called into question in the report. It says first responders — such as police, firefighters and paramedics — were confused during disaster drills about which radio channels they should use to communicate with one another….

With Katrina already having washed out New Orleans, San Francisco is probably now the most at-risk city in the nation for a catastrophic natural disaster, in the form of an earthquake. It’s important that they take this report seriously, and it’s equally important that federal monies are spent wisely and appropriately, which IS NOT creating multiple new layers of management and bureaucracy within state and city governments.

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