With tens of thousands of intoxicated partiers expected to descend on Isla Vista this weekend, county officials are preparing for all matter of large-scale emergency.
Riots, natural disasters, cliff accidents and structure fires could all pose extraordinary problems for police and firemen this Halloween. With 50,000 expected partiers packed into our one square mile home, densely packed streets could disrupt emergency services.
According to local authorities, the large crowds could complicate emergency responses to a number of situations.
“Any kind of disaster, whether it be people falling off the cliff, an apartment fire or some sort of critical incident involving a crime where there are shots that are fired … a lot of times these things will keep rolling into a bigger and bigger problem,” Isla Vista Foot Patrol Lt. Brian Olmstead said.
Over 250 police officers will patrol I.V. this weekend, up from an average of 10 for a normal weekend. In addition, dozens of medical personnel will also be on hand.
With the sizable crowd packed into the streets of Isla Vista, authorities are concerned with the possibility of a riot.
“Anytime you have that [big of] a crowd you have to worry about civil unrest,” Olmstead said. “That’s why we have zero tolerance with alcohol. We want to stop those problems from exploding into larger problems and including more people.”
By putting hundreds of officers on the streets, Olmstead said the high visibility will deter crime on any scale.
In the event that parts of Isla Vista need to be evacuated, police will have large loud speakers to direct crowds.
If crowded apartments were to catch fire, county firefighters would likely be unable to make it to site quickly. Nevertheless, Santa Barbara County Fire Dept. Captain David Sadecki said firemen are prepared to fight fires, even on crowded streets.
“The problem is going to be access, so it’s up to the police officers to make sure they keep the roads open,” Sadecki said. “Del Playa is going to be very difficult because of the amount of people. We have plans to go down some of the driveways from Sabado Tarde and then attack the fires down the driveways to Del Playa.”
Medical personnel are also preparing for unexpected emergencies. Five ambulances will be dedicated specifically to I.V., each capable of holding two or three patients. An eight-bed triage center will also be open to take additional injuries.
County officials have, however, temporarily run out of medical resources in the past. Emergency Medical Services Agency planner Marc Burdick said the current system was designed after an unexpected jump in medical emergencies in 2005.
“There was a significant number of calls in a very short period of time, and we basically had to deploy all of our ambulances from Carpenteria to Lompoc,” Burdick said. “We decided after that year to approach it differently,”
According to Burdick, the average ambulance ride costs roughly $1,800.
In case of any emergency, officials say more emergency vehicles and personnel are a phone call away. Through mutual aid agreements with other counties and cities, officials can obtain out of town resources.
“We notify them of the event, and then we say, ‘How many people could you provide immediately?'” Olmstead said. “And if it’s that big of an emergency they might say, ‘We’ll give you half the people that are working right now.'”