Chief's ReportMark Jokerst
Last month, in the midst of a prolonged drought, I bemoaned the dryness and urged all to get busy with their "fire-safe" yard work. And then it started raining. You see, it works! Mention "fire-safe" and things start happening.
I'm making a pitch this month for the Camptonville Prepared! organization. This is a new group made up of Camptonville people who have organized to help us respond to and recover from a future disaster. The group, headed by Judy Morris, has evolved out of the 2010 Bullards Fire.
At that time it became clear to many that in the first 24, or more, hours following a disaster like a big fire, we are pretty much on our own. Moreover, we need to be better prepared to help ourselves, and each other, in such times. Camptonville Prepared! exists to get that work going.
Here is a little history … During the early hours of the Bullards Fire, residents on Moonshine Road were being told to evacuate their homes. The fire originated below the dam and had raced up both sides of the canyon. Winds were not steady, and there was no predicting the path of the fire, so evacuation recommendations were being delivered. Moonshine residents were told to seek shelter at the Camptonville School, where a Red Cross center was being established. Meanwhile, Red Cross folks were in route from Marysville, headed up Marysville Road to Camptonville. When the Red Cross people reached the Dam, they were turned back, on account of the fire danger on Marysville Road.
Meanwhile, someone somewhere decided that since there was no one coming to the Red Cross shelter at the school there was no need for a shelter. So, the Red Cross folks were told to go home. Meanwhile, several families were headed to the school seeking shelter, only to be told that there was no shelter. A classic emergency going from bad to worse ... Luckily for everyone, the fire headed north and Moonshine Road was re-opened.
But it was and is disturbing that things could go so wrong. While we rely on county Emergency Services personnel to mobilize on our behalf, even bring in FEMA (god forbid!) when needed, the Bullards Fire showed us that the "system" can be unreliable. I think this is because critical decisions are being made by people who aren't present to see what is happening, so there is a communication breakdown.
So what is being done? Camptonville Prepared! is taking the bull by the horns. The basic premise is this: help may be on the way, but we're going to assume it is days away. Therefore, we're going to need to have stored emergency supplies and to have designated shelters, right in Camptonville, that are ready on a moment’s notice. When the white hats arrive, we'll let them take over, but no one gets turned away from a shelter that should be opened but is not. Camptonville Prepared! is getting the Camptonville School and the Masonic Lodge certified as Red Cross shelters.
Community members are being trained and certified as Red Cross volunteers, and storage sites are being identified for stockpiling supplies. An automated phone tree is being developed so YOU can be notified during an emergency, but YOU need to give Camptonville Prepared! your permission! A liaison between Camptonville Fire and Camptonville Prepared! is being established so that we can easily assist each other during an emergency.
Just to show you an example of community-inaction: back in December a vehicle careened into the phone lines in Grass Valley and took out the entire 911 system for Nevada, Yuba, and Sierra Counties. This meant if you needed 911 help you were out of luck. I called Camptonville Prepared! and asked them to call everyone they could to give everyone a set of numbers to call if they needed help. Within an hour we had our own 911 system in place, with redundant numbers in case something went wrong, again.
I'm really proud of Camptonville Prepared! for taking on this task; it's big and important. They do need help and volunteers to make it work. The group is meeting monthly; come by and check them out. Their next meeting is on April 18th at 6:30pm, at the Camptonville Firehouse, for more info call Judy at 288.1228.