Fire Season is upon us.
A recent news report states that “The number of wildfires and amount of land burned in parched California so far this year greatly exceed totals for the same period in disastrous 2020.” And keep in mind that of the top 20 most destructive California wildfires in history, six of them occurred in 2020. The dry winter, early heat waves, and extreme to exceptional drought conditions are pointing to perhaps the worst fire season yet.
Here are a few tips to prepare you and your loved ones to be safe from wildfire danger, and also to be prepared for PSPS (Public Safety Power Shutoffs), which occur during severe weather to help prevent wildfires. Preventing fires is good, but being without power for extended period also has issues.
Be Prepared to Evacuate
When to go
Remember that “When in doubt, get out.” Don’t wait to be officially notified to leave, if you feel you are in danger, it is time to go.
Sign up for local Alerts. Here in Alameda County, go to the County’s Emergencies page at https://www.acgov.org/emergencysite, to not only sign up for “AC Alert”, but to also access information about the locations of facilities, centers, and safety tips.
Because so many of us live, work, go to school, or have loved ones in neighboring counties, also visit Alert The Bay at https://www.alertthebay.org. This is a one stop shop for signing up for the alert systems used by the twelve immediate Bay Area Counties.
On 15 June, the “Zonehaven” evacuation system went on-line for Alameda County. This system divides up Alameda County into evacuation zones, which will be used by AC Alert and other notification systems to let residents know when it’s time to leave a particular area. Go to https://www.myzone.zonehaven.com locate your specific evacuation zone, and also access other resources.
Planning your evacuation
Consider your transportation needs. If you have a car, make sure you always have a least a half-tank of fuel, and be sure to at least occasionally take different routes to and from your home, work, or school.
If you don’t drive, talk to your transportation providers to see what their plans are. Also arrange to have “transportation allies”, folks who you can contact to help you evacuate when necessary.
Eden I&R / 211 Alameda County has a transportation portal at http://transportation.211alamedacounty.org if you need help with transportation resources in general.
Packing a “Go Kit”
Brainstorm a list of your needs
Consider your needs, brainstorm a list, the grab an unused bag, backpack, or suitcase, and drop things that you already have, that can help you, into that bag. Other useful items can often be obtained inexpensively, such as emergency blankets, first aid supplies, and other useful items.
Remember to have items to help you with things like air quality and COVID. Shelters and air quality centers will require masking, regardless of your vaccination status.
Where to keep your kit
Have more than one bag: keep one near your door, have one near your desk at work, and if you drive, keep one in your car.
Prepare for PSPS (Public Safety Power Shutoff)
PG&E has a “Wildfire Safety Toolkit” at http://pge.com/pspsresources, which lists resources for accessibility, financial, language, aging, and other needs. Some of the topics covered on this page include:
- Receiving PSPS alerts, even for Non-PG&E Account Holders
- Device charging, Wi-Fi and other support
- Portable Battery Program
- Financial Assistance
- Food replacement resources
- Resources for the disabled or older adults
- Language support (links to the toolkit in an additional 16 languages are located at the bottom of the page under “Wildfire Safety Resources”
And, here are some additional resources:
Disability Disaster Access and Resources (DDAR) Program
Encourage anyone you know who is reliant on power for medical or independent living needs, and may need extra help during a PSPS — such as access to portable backup batteries, transportation, hotel stays and food stipends — to create a plan with a local DDAR center and review the resources available to them.
Medical Baseline Program
Anyone who relies on power for medical or mobility needs to enroll in the Medical Baseline Program.
Those on Medical Baseline receive an additional monthly allotment of energy at the lowest price on their current rate, and receive extra notifications in advance of a PSPS (Public Safety Power Shutoff). Eligibility for Medical Baseline is based on medical conditions or needs, NOT on income.
Go to pge.com/medicalbaseline
Enroll in Address Alerts for notifications of a potential PSPS at any important address, such as the residence of family members, work or childcare. You do not have to have a PG&E account at the address to receive an alert.
Go to pge.com/addressalerts
Additional support and resources before, during, and after a PSPS event.
Go to pge.com/pspssupport
Safety Action Center
Here are safety tips, information, and resources to create a personalized emergency action plan, not just for PSPS (Public Safety Power Shutoff), but also for making a more fire resistant home, keeping cool during a heat wave, and other safety tips.
Want to have fun learning how transform your everyday brilliance into disaster resilience? Eden I&R has someone who can train you! Go to http://edenir.org/disaster-preparedness/ for information on how to arrange for a training.