Shortly following the devastating East Bay Hills Firestorm of 1991, the State of California Legislature passed Senate Bill 1841 mandating SEMS effective January 1993. The law is found in Section 8607 of the California Government Code. The intent of the law was to improve the coordination of state and local emergency response in California utilizing five organizational levels: (1) Field, (2) Local Government, (3) Operational Area - County, (4) Region, and (5) State.
The statute directed the California Governor's Office of Emergency Services (OES), in coordination with other state agencies and interested local emergency management agencies, to establish by regulation the Standardized Emergency Management System (SEMS). The SEMS Regulations took effect in September of 1994.
In January 1996 the City of San Leandro adopted this new procedure for managing emergencies, called SEMS. By complying with SEMS regulations, the city remained eligible for federal and state reimbursement following disasters. Since SEMS is a system that standardizes local response to emergencies involving multiple jurisdictions and multiple agencies, it also requires emergency response agencies to use the same basic principles and components of emergency management including the Incident Command System (ICS).
ICS is a standardized on-scene emergency management organization concept specifically designed to integrate management, operations, planning, logistics, and finance within a common organizational structure to effectively manage the information and resources pertinent to a critical incident or disaster. The city's emergency organization staffing the Emergency Operations Center (the city's central location where information and resources are managed during a disaster) is also organized under the ICS concept.
Although every city employee, by California Government Code, Section 3100, is an emergency worker during declared disasters, the city's formal ICS emergency organization is comprised of approximately seventy dedicated city employees who engage in on-going emergency training throughout the year, in addition to their already busy work schedules. This group of emergency personnel participate in disaster exercises, attend emergency management in-service training, and formal courses and workshops provided by the Governor's State Office of Emergency Services and the Federal Emergency Management Agency.