In the first weeks of World War II, the national Civil Defense program was activated. Los Angeles County and the local military authorities quickly recognized that the size and complexity of the county would require a unique management structure to effectively coordinate war-related activities amongst the county, cities, private sector and other agencies supporting the war effort. Civil Defense Areas were formed and each area was supervised by an Area Coordinator.
During WWII, Area Coordinators were responsible for programs ranging from Air Raid Wardens to Coast Watchers to Strategic Business Protection. And those rumors of miles of camouflage netting are true!
When the war ended, the Area Coordinators and the Civil Defense program transitioned from aerial and naval assault planning to developing strategies for a new threat: nuclear weapons.
Area Coordinators began intensive campaigns designed to protect the civilian population from the effects of a pre-emptive nuclear attack. This included developing fallout shelters, stocking water, food and medical supplies and training local fire and law enforcement in radiation response procedures.
It was during this time that the Civil Defense Areas in Los Angeles became self-governing organizations through adoptions of Joint Powers Agreements between cities and the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors.
As the Cold War era began to wind down, a new danger loomed, that of natural disasters. It was finally acknowledged that more lives and property had been lost to natural disasters than to war and a change was needed to address a long list of potential threats.
Times change and with it, Civil Defense transformed into Disaster Management with an emphasis on planning, training, exercising and public education for earthquakes, fires, floods, severe weather events, and epidemics, to name a just few emergencies.
There are now eight (8) Disaster Management Areas, each has a coordinator (DMAC), to work with cities and partner agencies to assist their emergency management activities and to act as a liaison between local government and county, state and federal agencies.