Examining the Goals of Burbank’s 2011-2021 Ten-Year Plan: A Safe and Prepared Burbank Community

(Photo by Ross A. Benson)

Burbank’s plan for the ten-year period of 2011 to 2021 created a set of specific goals for the City, with their second point of concentration being on cultivating “A Safe and Prepared Burbank Community.”

Protecting Burbank’s technology systems has become a more prominent area of focus over the past decade for the City. This most recently came to the forefront with an attempted attack on the police department’s computer network on Wednesday, May 19. 

A BPD detective’s email password was acquired, and their email was subsequently compromised by a third-party source during this transgression. The City’s extensive security protocols detected this, however, and in under two hours fully prevented further penetration. No network breach took place, and no information was obtained beyond the detective’s email account. 

File Photo ( Photo by Ross A Benson)

For the City of Burbank’s police and fire departments, top industry standards and practices are upheld to ensure wide-ranging preparation in the event of a cyber attack. Not only is the City equipped for compromising threats from outside parties, but it also holds a responsive recovery plan to further keep sensitive info secure. 

“We take a multilayered approach to security,” Kevin Gray, City of Burbank Chief Information Officer, said. “We’re keeping [systems] updated and we’re protecting them from threats…We also focus really hard on responding quickly and competently to any kind of incident that does occur. Then, lastly, we look at recovering.”

The City of Burbank consistently keeps staff members educated on potential dangers which could be damaging to their computer networks, and no major incidents have occurred since Gray stepped into his role in early 2018. All city departments continue to move forward with a concentrated effort on advancing tech security protocols. 

“We take it very, very seriously,” Gray said of protecting Burbank from cybersecurity threats. “Just this past year, we have had a very solid focus on trying to protect the City…We put such a serious focus on it that I feel really good about our position.”

Safety goals from the strategic plan prioritized diversity and inclusivity amongst city department staff. The Burbank Police Department, which had a 39% diverse staff as of March of 2021, has expanded diversity levels by taking part in a nationwide testing system, National Testing Network. This testing program is utilized to gain a diverse group of applicants from throughout the country. Inclusivity for the Burbank Fire Department has remained consistent over the last ten years, and their reported numbers from March showed department staff diversity levels at 22%. 

Response times are a crucial element of safety maintenance in Burbank, and this was likewise addressed in the City’s ten-year plan. Although a steady decline in response times has not occurred for the BPD, overall response times have seen improvements in both urgent situations and all other calls. Urgent calls dropped from a response time of 3:48 in 2012 to 2:57 in 2021, while other calls went from a 18:16 response time down to 14:31. In recent years, the BPD has used advanced technology to trace incoming call locations and improve response times. A collaboration with the California Office of Emergency Services is also in the works to further improve the precision of this feature.

(Photo by © Ross A. Benson)

“The Department is currently working with [CalOES] to implement the Next Generation 911 system,” BPD Sergeant Emil Brimway said. “Once this system is built out, it will improve the location accuracy of incoming calls placed from cellular phones which will ultimately affect response times. The system will also improve call routing, provide for sharing of video and other electronic content, and enhance system resiliency.”

The BFD’s response times have been consistent from 2011-2021. Their response figures consist of the sum total of alarm handling time, turnout time, and travel time. The department analyzes response times on an ongoing basis and has initiated recent progressive steps in upgrading this system further.

“We regularly assess our response times on each category of call and strive to improve our baseline,” Burbank Fire Department Battalion Chief, Mark Hatch, said. “Recently, there was a Computer Aided Dispatch, or CAD, upgrade deployed that will assist all 13 agencies dispatched by Verdugo Communications in measuring and improving total response time.”

The plan’s subgoal of enhancing school district safety guidelines has resulted in the BPD maintaining a close partnership with the BUSD over the last decade to keep students and staff safe. The department has trained hundreds of BUSD teachers on how to handle an active threat or school shooter, and they’ve introduced School Resource Officers (SROs), who support student safety needs. SROs keep an eye on schools to ensure safety is being prioritized, and are supplied with trauma kits in case of emergencies. Furthermore, the BPD meets annually with the BUSD to outline policies, procedures, and response protocols to be carried out in the event of hazardous scenarios. 

All Burbank schools and daycares also have annual fire and life safety issues inspections carried out by a BFD Fire Prevention Inspector. The inspector also educates school staff on emergency preparedness, and the department’s Emergency Management Coordinator is similarly a collaborative resource for the BUSD.

The City of Burbank recommended strong preservation of local alliances in their strategic plan, including working with establishments like the Hollywood Burbank Airport and St. Joseph’s Hospital to prepare for emergency situations. The police department contributes monthly training exercises to the airport and has hosted field training exercises annually for airport personnel. Staff seminars on security and safety procedures, as well as field exercises for police, fire, and other staff members, have also been introduced at St Joe’s via the BPD. A police department lieutenant is likewise involved as a staff liaison to the hospital. 

“BPD has a strong working relationship with organizations in its community, and expends considerable effort on outreach and preparation for emergencies,” Brimway said. “COVID significantly impacted the Department’s ability to participate at its usual levels in the past year, but we look forward to returning to the operational tempo of previous years.”

(Photo by © Ross A. Benson)

St. Joe’s, the Hollywood Burbank Airport, and local media studios have additionally maintained a close partnership with the BFD. Fire personnel communicate safety and preparedness strategies to these locations every year through educational courses and disaster planning information distribution.  

The adoption of building codes to increase safety for the community of Burbank was written as a top pursuit in the city’s ten-year outline. This element of the plan has been addressed through city-specific and state-wide codes, mostly recently in the form of the 2019 California Building and Fire Codes. 

“Building and Fire Codes are constantly implemented through plan check of construction plans, Fire and Life Safety inspections, public education and code enforcement,” Hatch said. “The most recent edition of 2019 California Building and Fire Codes was adopted last year and has been further strengthened through the Burbank Municipal Code.”

Social media is heavily utilized by the BPD and BFD, as both release information to the public on their online profiles. The BFD uses Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and the City’s website to keep the Burbank community up-to-date on emergency situations. They also utilize a reverse 911 electronic telephone system as another measure of public outreach. News releases, crime prevention tips, and recruitment information are all pertinent notices which the BPD releases through their social media profiles. Applying social networking was named as a powerful means of keeping the Burbank community updated on emergency situations in the plan, and both departments continue to use these platforms for releasing safety-related news.

File Photo Crime Mapping. (Photo by Ross A Benson)

“Our city is… active on social media and we work in partnership to inform our residents of any recent activity,” Brimway said. “We also have crime mapping, which is a website utilized by inputting your zip code to see what crime reports we have taken within the City of Burbank and more specifically, around a particular neighborhood.”

Emergency preparedness through community education and training have been paramount in furthering the city’s safety over the last decade. The BFD’s Fire Corps section and the BPD’s Community Police Academy are two programs that have served this purpose consistently for Burbank residents. Through the academy, residents are taught about police work and the importance of locals speaking up if they witness suspicious activity.  The Burbank Fire Corps engages volunteers who contribute support in non-hazardous BFD duties through their programs. These include Public Education and Community Outreach and Emergency Operations Center Support Operations. In response to COVID-19, the Burbank Fire Corps adjusted to continuing their acts of service while keeping up with COVID safety regulations. 

“The Burbank Fire Corps Program quickly adapted and [moved] towards an online format for their monthly meetings,” Hatch said. ”The volunteers continued to work in small socially distanced groups following COVID safety protocols to provide volunteer fire patrols, continue preventive maintenance and equipment readiness inspections and ongoing equipment familiarization training.”

Prior to the COVID-19 outbreak, the BFD regularly granted station tours and gave school presentations and demonstrations on emergency preparedness upon request. 

Public education programs from the Emergency Management Division, which are put on by the BFD’s Emergency Management Coordinator, have continued in a limited capacity virtually during COVID. The department normally holds its Fire Service Day in May, which includes educational displays and community Q&As. The event has been canceled for the second consecutive year due to the pandemic, but the BFD plans to bring it back in 2022. 

(Photo by © Ross A. Benson)

“We always try to satisfy requests and seek opportunities to participate in community events,” Hatch said. “It is through these events that we get an opportunity to meet and educate the public on how to handle emergencies and demonstrate our capabilities.”

Another collaborative area for the police department is their involvement in Burbank’s Neighborhood Watch, a system that the City desired to see revamped in the ten-year plan. Neighborhood Watch Program meetings are held with a BPD officer who updates neighborhood members on recent crime trends in their area, as well as the best ways to stay safe. The program has grown steadily throughout the timeline of the ten-year plan, which the department attributes to a substantial rise in social media participation.   

“Over the past ten years, the Neighborhood Watch program has grown in popularity due to the increased ease of communication between neighbors on social media,” Brimway said.  “Applications and platforms like Facebook, Ring Neighbors, and Nextdoor allow community members to engage in conversation and keep each other apprised of suspicious activity in their neighborhoods.”  

Both departments say that looking ahead, they will persist in prioritizing the safety of the Burbank community in their future developments. 

“The department will continue to focus on the safety of the community and work on reducing crime,” Brimway said. “We will continue to work with the community, listen to and address their concerns by utilizing Constitutional and contemporary policing methods.”  

Although no ten-year strategic plan is yet available for the upcoming decade, Burbank’s safety departments will aim to broaden strategies that are as effective as possible for locals who rely on their critical services. 

“Our plan moving forward is to remain focused on our drive toward constant improvement,” Hatch added. “This includes an emphasis in the areas of departmental efficiencies, development, and sustainability. This ongoing process runs in parallel with our continued delivery of top-tier emergency services to our community.”


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