Disaster Relief – Are We Prepared?

by | Nov 13, 2017

After spending a week in the Napa and Sonoma after the fires I occurred to me what kind of emergency management processes does your town have in effect. What can we learn from what happened in the wine country fires.

The fires happened so fast and changed instantly when the wind shifted many people didn’t have time to gather belongings, they had to run for their lives. It was difficult to get information due to power being out, internet down. Natural disaster is not just the fires that happened in California, there are the floods in Texas after the hurricane. Natural disasters happen in many forms; fires, tornado, earthquake, floods, blizzard,hurricanes…is your town or region ready?

During the Wine Bloggers Conference I sat in on a discussion about the role bloggers and citizens played in the fire to warn people what roads were open and closed, how to escape from an area where the fire was heading, where the fire was heading. This made me think is my town ready for a disaster? And what can we learn from this tragic event.

Some key items to think about that happened during the fires:

1. When an event happens in the middle of the night, how to alert people. I heard stories of cats waking their owners to the smell of smoke.
2. People like you and I have smartphones we get alerts on, what about the elderly who don’t have smartphones, perhaps a flip phone or no cell phone. With the electric out, how can they receive information.
3. What happens when the cable and electric go out
4. What happens when the cell phone towers are compromised

These are all questions that came up. I remember reading my facebook feed and sharing the information because I have friends in that area and didn’t know if they knew. Social media played a huge role in alerting people what was going on.

Don’t dismiss local social media influencers. These people are front and center and disbursing the information because they care and are trusted. During the fire, not only were they disbursing information, they were finding people and relaying the info via social media back to their loved ones that grandma was okay. These aren’t people the influencers knew, but people who saw their posts on the fire, and realized this way was the only way they were going to get information about what was really going on in the region.

Another item everyone should do is sign up at Nixle. This is a public safety service that will keep you informed and up-to-date with safety information in your area.  Either sign up on the website or text your zipcode to 888777 to opt-in.

My question to you is ‘Does your town or county have an emergency management plan?’ If they do, does it cover these situations?