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Dispatchers prepare for busy phones ahead of rainy week

Emergency crews in Santa Barbara County are gearing up for a series of storms.

National Weather Service meteorologist Mark Jackson will brief Santa Barbara County Emergency officials on what to expect from the rain throughout the week.

“All these storms added up, we could have pretty significant accumulation of rain,” said Jackson. “They take that information and make the determination on what sort of actions might be needed to protect life and property.”

The Emergency Operation Center will be open through Friday night and into Saturday morning to monitor the storm, according to Robert Lewin, CEO of the Santa Barbara County Office of Emergency Management.

Meanwhile, the Santa Barbara County dispatch center is staffed with eight people instead of five or six. Employees have been told to bring an overnight bag and some extra food in case they need to stay close to the phones. Shifts that typically last about 10 hours could turn into 15-hour shifts.

“Depending on the situation the rain may cause, we may be held over or need to find alternate sleeping arrangements so a lot of dispatchers will be preparing to bring a bag with them,” said Shannon Hoogenbosch, Santa Barbara County Dispatch Supervisor.

Overnight stays are a rarity, but they happen.

“It does get very hectic, phones ringing, we get a lot of calls for vehicle accidents, roofs collapsed, trees falling onto houses and cars, flooding, roadways washed out,” added Hoogenbosch.

Hoogenbosch says it’s a juggle balancing more common, daily emergencies and storm-related ones.

Should the rain wreak havoc on Santa Barbara County, dispatchers will be at the phones ready to go.

“We are the voices that most likely never get recognized but that’s okay with us, that’s why we’re here. We’re here to help the public,” said Hoogenbosch.

Kelsey McFarland

Kelsey McFarland

Kelsey McFarland is the weekend anchor and reporter for KSBY News.
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