Area Office of Emergency Services/Homeland Security

The Sheriff's Office of Emergency Services [OES] is funded through a Joint Powers Agreement (JPA) between the 20 incorporated cities and towns and the County of San Mateo. The cities and towns contribute money to fund the JPA based upon a formula that takes into account the population and average assessed property value of each municipality. The county then matches their fund contributions. The remainder of the OES budget comes from state and federal Emergency Management Assistance program funds and contamination/cleanup incidents.

Dirty Bomb FAQ's

The San Mateo County Area Office of Emergency Services Bureau is concerned that the biggest impact of a "dirty bomb" would be public panic, and has prepared a dirty bomb Q&A.

What is a dirty bomb?

A dirty bomb is an explosive device that combines radioactive material, such as radioactive waste, with readily available conventional explosives. The device is designed to kill or injure not through its explosive force, but rather by creating a zone of intense radiation. This would be difficult to achieve, however. Experts believe that few, if any terrorists have the knowledge to achieve this effect.

What are the effects of a dirty bomb?

Much depends on the type of explosives and type of radioactive materials used, as well as prevailing wind patterns. Injuries and fatalities would result from the explosion itself. The bomb would spread radiation, leaving an area contaminated for months. However, it is the psychological effect of spreading radiation that is difficult to estimate; the terrorists' goal is to spread fear and panic, and cause public hysteria. The San Mateo Area Office of Emergency Services believes that fear of radiation and dirty bombs can be ameliorated through public education.

What can I do in the event of an attack?

According to the National Council on Radiation Protection, people can reduce exposure by taking shelter in homes or other buildings until the radiation level falls. Ventilation systems using outside air should be turned off, and eating contaminated food should be avoided. Radioactive dust can be washed off the skin and contaminated clothing should be discarded to reduce external exposure.

Additionally, the National Institute of Health makes the following recommendations:

  • DO NOT remain in the exposed area.
  • DO NOT apply ointment to burned skin areas.
  • DO NOT remain in exposed clothing.
  • DO NOT minimize the potential danger - radiation exposure is dangerous.
  • DO NOT hesitate to seek emergency medical treatment.

Additionally, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) recommends time, distance and shielding to minimize radiation exposure to the body, thus limiting injuries and fatalities from exposure:

TIME: Most radioactivity loses its strength fairly quickly. Limiting the time spent near the source will reduce the amount of exposure.

DISTANCE: The more distance between you and the source of radiation, the less radiation you will receive.

SHIELDING: Heavy, dense materials between you and the source of the radiation will provide shielding and reduce exposure. Local officials could advise residents to remain indoors. Home or workplace walls could provide adequate shielding for a period of time.

What are the symptoms of radiation exposure?

Radiation sickness starts out with vague, flu-like symptoms. It can cause nausea, vomiting, weakness and lethargy.

For additional information of radiation exposure, please visit these web sites:

Tips On Preparing For Terrorism

San Mateo County Sheriff's Office Area Office of Emergency Services
(650) 363-4790

The threat of terrorism has been brought home to America in a shockingly personal manner. However, it is not a new threat and you can do something about it. For years, cities and the County of San Mateo have waged war on crime and have prepared for a variety of potential disasters.

These techniques can help:

1. Get The Facts

While terrorist attacks with chemical, biological or nuclear agents are possible; the likelihood of their use is not high.

  • Chemical agents are poisonous gases, liquids or solids. They are difficult to manufacture and to deliver in quantity. For example, the Pentagon estimates that a ton of sarin would be necessary to produce 10,000 casualties.
  • Biological agents are organisms or toxins that have illness-producing effects. Again, they are difficult to manufacture and to deliver. Aum Shinrikyo, with millions in funding and sophisticated staff, was unable to produce a biological weapon after five years of trying.
  • Nuclear agents are substances that generate harmful radiation.. Nuclear devices and materials are closely monitored and difficult to obtain.

The preferred terrorist weapon of choice continues to be conventional explosives. They can be easily manufactured and transported, as we saw in the Oklahoma City bombing. Fortunately, good physical security practices and public awareness can help prevent this type of attack.

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2. Accept Responsibility For Your Own Safety

An aware and informed public is our best defense against terrorism. We must all do our part to keep our community safe. Terrorism is a crime and crime prevention strategies work very well. These include:

  • Be aware of your surroundings. Notice where emergency exits are located. Think ahead about how to evacuate a building, subway or congested public area in a hurry.
  • Report suspicious objects, packages, vehicles or persons to the appropriate authorities.
  • Cooperate with security procedures at your place of work and in public places.
  • Take precautions when traveling. Be aware of conspicuous or unusual behavior/ Do not accept packages from strangers. Do not leave luggage unattended.
  • Don't spread rumors - confirm questionable information with a credible source.

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3. Prepare For All Emergencies

San Mateo County is prone to many disasters, not just terrorist attack. The same preparedness measures work well for many different types of emergencies. Some key things you can do:

  • Make copies of important personal/business documents and store them in a safe place.
  • Identify an out of state contact person so family and friends can communicate with your during an emergency.
  • Develop an individual / family / business emergency plan.
    • Plan for a meeting place if you cannot meet at home.
    • Discuss what children should do if at school.
    • Coordinate with neighbors for pickup if children attend the same school.
    • Designate a surrogate parent for your children if you are not able to tend to them.
    • Provide this information to your child's school.
  • Learn how to locate and shutoff (if necessary) power, water and gas.
  • Stockpile emergency supplies for 3-7 days, including prescription medicines and a first-aid kit.
  • Know your community resources.

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4. Volunteer To Help

A successful response to an emergency requires a great deal of help. A limited number of volunteer groups have been pre-trained and are part of jurisdictions' emergency plans. Joining one of these organizations NOW increases your personal preparedness and your value to the community in emergencies. Some key organizations are:

  • Auxiliary Communications Service (ACS) - Licensed Amateur (HAM) radio operators providing vital communications links when normal communications systems are inoperative or overloaded.
  • Sheriff's Area Office of Emergency Services (650) 363-4790
  • American Red Cross - Disaster Action Teams (DAT), provides victim services and emergency shelter teams. Red Cross (650) 259-1750

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If A Terrorist Attack Occurs:

  • Remain calm and follow the instructions of emergency services personnel.
  • Be alert to secondary hazards such as falling debris or additional devices.
  • Monitor the media for emergency information and bulletins. The emergency stations are:
    • KCBS 740 AM
    • KGO 810 AM
    • KNBR 680 AM

How To Report An Emergency

  • Speak slowly and clearly
  • State your name
  • Describe the emergency
    • What happened?
    • Where did it happen?
    • Who is involved?
  • Stay on the phone

Suspicious Mail

  • SET IT ASIDE. Do not merely discard it.
  • WASH HANDS with soap and water after handling mail.
  • If you have a letter that contains a liquid or powder substance - ISOLATE IT.
  • DO NOT shake or empty contents.
  • CONTACT law enforcement.

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For More Information, Visit The Following Sites: