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Valley Residents Learn Tips on Preparing for the Next Wildfire or the Big Quake at Valley Town Hall

Get to know your neighbors.

Approximately eighty local residents learned about how to prepare their homes and families in the event of a major earthquake or a wildfire at an Emergency Preparedness town hall, sponsored by San Fernando Valley assembly members Christy Smith, Adrin Nazarian, and Jesse Gabriel. Among the speakers were LAFD personnel from the Porter Ranch fire stations, Sally Westlake from the California Dept. of Insurance, Battalion Coordinator Pat Hall for the city CERT program (Community Emergency Response Team), and Naomi Goldman of the American Red Cross. The event was held at the North Valley YMCA.

Among the main messages given by the LAFD chiefs is that during a wild fire, residents need to keep tabs on official sources of information about evacuation, and if voluntary evacuations are called for, start packing up your car to leave. Be ready to go when asked; otherwise, those who remain behind and become trapped, can cause problems for first responders. As fire captain Craig Poulson warned, “If the LAFD or LAPD suggest evacuation, don’t be the one who decides to wait,” including the warning that a garden hose is not a sufficient means of protecting one’s home from a threatening wildfire.

Reliable sources of information about the progress of a fire can be found on the official Facebook and Twitter LAFD accounts as well as on the website http://www.lafd.org/. The Red Cross has some free apps that may be helpful for residents. Residents can also sign up for Reverse 911 alerts on their phones.

After a major earthquake, first responders will be busy dealing with putting out fires and other problems due to infrastructure collapse. For the most part, people should be prepared to be on their own, especially if there’s a lack of water and natural gas due to broken pipelines. In addition, there could be limited or no communications, road closures, delays in getting assistance, and power outages.

Have an emergency supply kit set aside that includes at least a three day supply of water and nonperishable food for each member of the family, including pets. Keep water (a gallon per person per day) at room temperature or lower (not in a hot place such as your car trunk). Among other recommended items that should be stored in case of emergencies: a first aid kit, flashlights, a whistle, manual can opener, canned and dried food, extra clothes and shoes, a hand cranked radio, cash, and heavy gloves.

Keep a to-go kit ready just in case you have to leave your house, as well as kits for your car and your workplace. Each family should decide what items need to be in the tote or backpack based on the family’s needs, such as providing for pets, children, and those with mobility problems.

Have paper versions of your contacts in your wallet and emergency kit, just in case you can’t use your cell phone due to lack of Wi-Fi or a run-down battery. Also have any paper work such as proof of address and insurance papers uploaded to a flash drive and to the cloud.

Get to know your neighbors. Know which neighbors may have special needs. Have contact info for them.

Know how to turn off water and gas (but the latter, only if needed, as the gas company would have to turn it back on).

It was suggested that each family discuss and write an emergency plan together, and assign roles for each person.

Among the information that Poulson explained is that a wildfire can form even on non-red-flag days. The Santa Ana winds don’t need low levels of humidity and high temperatures to cause a fire. But when there’s a fire approaching, there are steps one can take including moving flammable items such as lawn furniture away from one’s house, and even using duct tape on air vents.

Assembly member Adrian Nazarian suggested that residents can become involved in legislative programs, including about tax credits, building standards

Jesse Gabriel applauded the firefighters for the incredible work that the firefighters have done, that they put themselves at risk. He mentioned the Woolsey fire, which had started in Ventura County and burned down to the ocean. Not a single structure within the city of Los Angeles was lost, due to enforcement of brush clearance.

Christy Smith said that there is legislature being considered regarding safe overnight spaces.

Regarding the homeless, Poulson pointed out that station 8 is aware of those living in encampments in Limekiln Canyon. “We see the homeless as not homeless, but humans. We know where they are located, we interact with them.” He said that in case of disaster, the LAFD will take care of evacuating them.

One attendee mentioned a recent incident in which a propane tank exploded when a fire started in a homeless encampment in the Sepulveda Pass. The LAFD’s Chris Pohl said that there is a safety element for the firefighters and the community when fighting such a fire.

The possibility of another major gas leak or blowout in Aliso Canyon, such as what happened in 2015, was mentioned as another type of disaster to be prepared for. The firefighters, of course, didn’t mention the current lawsuit of some current and former firefighters from the two station houses in Porter Ranch against SoCalGas.

For more information to help you get prepared for an emergency, here are some links: https://www.ready.gov/make-a-plan and https://www.redcross.org/get-help/how-to-prepare-for-emergencies.html.