In August 2023, devastating fires broke out across Hawaii, primarily on the island of Maui. These fires claimed nearly 100 lives, destroyed significant heritage and cultural sites, and led the governor of Hawaii to declare it as ‘the worst natural disaster’ the state had ever experienced. The frequency of such natural disasters is increasing, prompting the essential question: are other states and cities adequately prepared to combat them?

One of the challenges faced in Hawaii was the ineffectiveness of the alert system in this situation. Sirens were available but remained unused due to concerns that people might not respond appropriately. The local residents were accustomed to these sirens being utilized for hurricanes or storms, events that typically did not cause this level of devastation.

Natural Disasters and Private Security

Wildfires, earthquakes, and perhaps tsunamis are just a few of the disaster hazards that Malibu and other coastal areas must be prepared for. However, it’s vital to remember that these dangers and preparation strategies may vary from those in Maui.

It’s critical to emphasize that private security companies can assist and cooperate with local authorities and adhere to established emergency protocols, even though they can play a part in disaster preparedness and response. 

Fires in Malibu

Malibu is a naturally beautiful place within Southern California that many see as an oasis from city life. However, some aspects of Malibu would make it very difficult to manage a forest fire or other natural disaster. When there have been fires, it is a region-wide collaborative effort to fight them: the fire department, CalFire, helicopters with water, and other resources come into the area to try to contain the fire. Roads are also blocked off, making it even more difficult for people to get in and out of Malibu. 

If there is a fire, that fire could spread for miles and miles and cut off key roads and access points. Many politicians will say they have emergency plans in place but are unaware of the immediately available resources if disaster strikes.

Combating Natural Disaster

When considering disasters, the fire emergency personnel are trained in the FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) command system. Some of them will have up to 800-level FEMA training. However, when it comes to other response units, such as those from the Sheriff’sSheriff’s department, many will not have that level or any FEMA training. 

In the past, this has caused several problems that prevent public bodies from effectively handling disasters. For example, everyone will communicate on different radio frequencies and use other radio codes, which is a huge problem. Now, they acknowledge the need to all work together, utilizing a single system everyone can partake in. One of these is the FEMA system. This has meant that many officers and fire and emergency services officers have been extensively trained in FEMA. 

WPG and Disaster Response 

At WPG, it is recommended that all agents have done 100 and 200-level FEMA training to understand how WPG fits in when there is a disaster, and we are under a FEMA government command system.

WPG has 12 armed security professionals who have drone pilot licenses. When a disaster happens, you need all the resources you can gather. Ideally, this means that with FEMA-trained agents and a dozen agents with drone pilot licenses, WPG can now assist in a disaster and be able to help law enforcement. 

Another critical thing to consider is that when these disasters occur, some members of society begin to act out and loot stores and homes and even vandalize things. This might be brought on due to a state of panic, but often, it is because the police and emergency services are dealing with the disaster. These businesses and stores also need protection, and WPG could provide additional armed security and be FEMA-trained.

Joint Training

One thing that absolutely has to happen and is likely not happening in Malibu is that the police, sheriff’s department, fire departments, private security, and other emergency services must train together. Joint training should take place every month at a minimum. There is a loss of experience, knowledge, and strategy when services qualify separately and, therefore, need to know what the other service’s plans and response look like. Services need to be in a position to know who is doing what and what resources are allocated. 

This will also allow valuable additional WPG services woven into disaster planning and strategies. Instead of panicking or being unsure how other services respond, joint training and a teamed-up approach will enhance effectiveness and speed. Rehearsing beforehand ensures that every agency will work to the maximum of their ability.

The people who are running the emergency services need to be FEMA-trained and have done this kind of response many times. This kind of experience cannot be undervalued. They will be able to handle the situation with competency and urgency.

If Malibu wants to be prepared for a natural disaster like the one that overwhelmed Hawaii, it needs to take these essential steps and include a private security firm in Los Angeles. Services need to link together, train together, and plan together. Everyone’s life is critical, and emergency planning requires a proactive, highly informed approach to save lives.

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