Wednesday, July 24, 2024

Redwood Valley Resilience Meeting Calls Attention to the Dangers of Natural Disasters

The Kirk Fire burning uphill on June 21, 2021 [Picture taken by Matt LaFever]

On August 31, 2023, the County of Mendocino Community hosted a Resilience Public Outreach and Listening Session at the Behavioral Health Regional Training Center in Redwood Valley. Officials with local Emergency Services gathered to discuss the risks Redwood Valley faces from natural and human-made disasters.

The Prepare California initiative provides grants to communities deemed vulnerable to disasters. Mendocino County qualifies for the grant. The County Office of Emergency Services is conducting resilience meetings throughout the county in census tracts designated as high-hazard exposure and socially vulnerable. Garrett James of the County OES facilitated the meeting in Redwood Valley on August 31.

Redwood Valley is most vulnerable to wildfire, drought, earthquake and epidemics. Information on how to prepare your household for these dangers is available at MendoReady.Org. The site contains a drop-down box with a list of languages, one click provides instant translation.

The first step in planning is to be informed. Register for the County emergency alert system at this link to receive phone and text alerts when an emergency happens. The County system includes Nixle alerts. In addition to the alerts sent out from the County system, the Sheriff’s office will post alerts and instructions to social media during an emergency, and local radio stations will be given information to broadcast.

A household plan should include mitigating any hazards around the home, how to communicate with household members during an emergency, assembling go-bags, knowing where to reach important documents, and maintaining food and medical supplies at home in case you have to shelter in place. The County OES also urges citizens to get involved with community groups. The community groups should plan to check on elderly or disabled residents during an emergency.

The OES has created zones to track the status of each neighborhood. Locate the zone for your street address at Know Your Zones. There are two levels to evacuating neighborhoods in an emergency, Evacuation Warnings and Evacuation Orders. The warning will give you time to get ready and load up your vehicle. An Evacuation Order means leave now. First responders will drive through the neighborhood using European-style high-low sirens to warn people to get out. When you hear this type of siren be ready to evacuate. Here is a short video demonstrating the sound of the high-low siren.

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Some of the recommendations from meeting attendees included: adding more emergency alert sirens, identification of evacuation routes, coordinating with MTA and school districts in case busses are needed, Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) training, including Spanish language instructions, finding funding to remove dead and dying vegetation, planning for food distribution.

The session also briefly touched on building economic resilience in the county. Suggestions included offering apprenticeships in the trades, training medical staff at the hospital, expanding broadband coverage, and starting a truck driving school to address the shortage of drivers.

Redwood Valley is one step ahead when it comes to emergency planning and preparation, after the hard lessons learned from the 2017 Redwood Complex fire. The Redwood Valley Municipal Advisory Council website includes the draft Redwood Valley Fire Recovery Plan. The Plan is a comprehensive analysis of how the community came through the fire, and offers real-world advice on planning and recovery. In the immediate days after the 2017 fire, the Grange offered community meals and childcare for parents who needed to visit various agencies and fill out the paperwork necessary when applying for emergency aid.

The concept of COAD (Community Organization Active in Disaster) and VOAD (Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster) was briefly mentioned at the meeting. The Redwood Valley MAC recently heard a presentation from guest speaker Meredith DeLucia of the Community Foundation on the subject of disaster preparation groups. This past winter there were some multi-day road closures that left certain remote areas of the county stranded for several days. This is a situation that COAD and VOAD groups could address with advance planning. Each community would have a group of COAD volunteers to monitor neighborhood conditions during a disaster. The COAD leaders would coordinate with VOADs such as county government and NGOs like The Community Foundation during an emergency.

Ham radio operator Rick Azarnoff said that ham radio can be used when the telephone and internet are down. Unfortunately, the number of ham radio operators has declined. Ham radio is a useful tool when other communication methods fail. Ham radio training could be included as part of CERT training, and Azarnoff encouraged high school students to learn ham radio. The Willits Ham Radio Club’s website is W6MMM.club, and the Mendocino County Amateur Radio Communications Service website is McARCS. Azarnoff would be happy to answer questions by email at rick@pacific.net if you want to learn more about ham radio.

Every household needs to be ready for emergencies. Failing to plan is planning to fail.

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Monica Huettl
Monica Huettl
Mendocino County Resident, Annoying Horse Girl.

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