Whatever The Big One will be – fire, earthquake, flooding, really big sink hole – we just won’t know until it rears its ugly head. Experts in the emergency services field gathered in Lafayette Wednesday to ponder the imponderable, and come up with some plans they hope will save lives if things go to heck.
A workshop held at the Vets Hall Wednesday was organized to bring all of the first response agencies from the area together to talk about the issues that would surround a large-scale evacuation in our area, a possibility driven home by recent events around the world. Representatives from LPD, Moraga PD, St. Mary’s College, Pleasant Hill PD, Danville PD, the Sheriff’s Office, County OES, ConFire, MOFD and AMR all took part.
The program included an overview of the dangers of a wildland fire in the 24/680, how first responders plan to cooperate in a joint operation should such a fire take place, what the laws are regarding an evacuation, how they plan to manage the process of evacuating people, what resources are available to help in such an effort, and what lessons have been learned during evacuations in other jurisdictions.
Sgt. Joseph Wilder of the Madera County Sheriff’s Office shared his experiences supervising many of the evacuations that have been done in the area of Yosemite over the past few years, sharing the processes developed to expedite getting people out of and then back into an effected area with his colleagues.
ConFire’s Capt. George Laing presented an overview of potential fire dangers in the area and outlined how quickly a situation could get out of control – necessitating an evacuation. Laing stressed how law enforcement needed to maintain effective corridors of evacuation during an emergency, as well as how law enforcement should interact with fire crews and equipment during an emergency.
Moraga’s Chief Jon King gave an overview of the Incident Command System (ICS) and how it would be employed in a large scale incident, detailing how a large-scale should be managed and coordinated while sharing anecdotes of his use of the system while working at the East Bay Parks District.
Dennis Rein, the Moraga-Orinda Fire District’s Emergency Services Coordinator, provided an overview of the process fire and law enforcement agencies have agreed to use in the event an actual evacuation comes to pass. Rein stressed the need for public agencies to work together to ensure safe movement of people, animals, and vehicles in and out of an affected area, as well as ways to keep the public informed during this process.
Participants taking part in Wednesday’s program said it gives first responders invaluable insight into the inevitable confusion and challenges presented by a large-scale evacuation as well as time to develop a “game plan” to deal with such an event.
To this end, Lafayette PD will be conducting an evacuation drill on Saturday, October 14 with the Sheriff’s Search and Rescue Program, Chief Eric Christensen reported. The drill will simulate an emergency where first responders are called upon to evacuate residents from a part of town.
It may be a good time to give the possibility, some say eventuality, of a catastrophic event some consideration on the personal level. If the pros are planning for such an event, perhaps citizens should, too.