Preparing for the Fire Next Time

Annemarie DonkinBy Annemarie Donkin      September 4, 2020

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Preparing for the Fire Next Time
Los Angeles County Firefighter battles the 31,089-acre Lake Fire, near Palmdale, in August.
The Topanga Coalition for Emergency Preparedness—TCEP—urges everyone to prepare for the next wildfire. Evacuation is the first line of defense and one should always be ready. Also, be prepared to hear the newly adopted terminology: “Evacuation Warning” and “Evacuation Order.”
In the Santa Monica Mountains, it’s pretty much always fire season. The Mountains just survived a long, hot summer. But the fall months often are extra dangerous, with more instances of Santa Ana winds and hot, dry conditions.  L.A. County Fire officials warn that “it’s not a matter of whether Topanga burns, but when.” The plume of smoke from the Lake Fire in the Angeles National Forest, near Lake Hughes, 60 miles north of Los Angeles, was seen from Topanga and was just one of more than 375 wildfires that burned through California in August. L.A. County Fire officials also determined that the 2018 Woolsey Fire that devastated Santa Monica Mountains communities from Agoura Hills to Malibu was just moments away from turning east and burning straight down Topanga to PCH. Had the winds turned east, fire officials say, the situation would have been very different for Topanga. In fact, the Canyon was evacuated as a precaution, thus potentially saving thousands of lives. Therefore, in Topanga it is considered wise to always have a “Go Bag” at the ready for each member of your family in your vehicle and/or by the front door; organize and secure important papers; put computer files on a portable hard drive; and create an evacuation plan. To prepare, you can download a great guide book, “Ready, Set, Go!” from L.A. County Fire. fire.lacounty.gov/rsg. NEW EVACUATION TERMINOLOGY According to James Grasso, TCEP Director, Agency Liaison and Duty Officer, he said that Los Angeles County has adopted new terminology for evacuations during emergencies. Grasso wrote to the Chronicle that in the past we had “Voluntary Evacuation,” and “Mandatory Evacuation.” Those terms have been retired. The new terminology is “Evacuation Warning” that replaces “Voluntary Evacuation” and “Evacuation Order” replaces “Mandatory Evacuation.” “Remember, anyone is free to evacuate at any time during an incident and does not need to wait for the official notice,” Grasso wrote. “If you need extra time or have large animals and the situation looks serious, you should begin well in advance of the need.  “Many with large animals have done so, so many times only to feel it’s a false alarm. Remember, it is only a false alarm until that one time [when] it is not a false alarm! That one time will be worth a hundred false alarms. Be safe!” EVACUATION PROCEDURES In these unprecedented times, we all are feeling vulnerable, especially now with fire season upon us and off to a strong start. According to TCEP, there are a few things Topangans can do to “GET READY” during fire season: • Make sure you have created a defensible space around your home.  • Have an Emergency Family Plan. That includes your pet family as well.  • Make sure you have signed up for and are getting emergency alerts not just from TCEP but from County Agencies as well.  • Know your Evacuation Zone and have an evacuation plan in place. Know the routes you would take in an emergency. What would you do, how would you travel, if that route was blocked or unavailable?  What are your options? Do you know your closest PSR or PTRA (Public Safe Refuge, Public Temporary Refuge Area)? What can Topangans do during Red Flag Alerts or Warnings to “GET READY?” • Position your car heading out • Make ready your “Go Bag” and valuables • Make ready your home both inside and out • Make sure your pets, in particular large animals, are ready, pre-load them and any gear you might need. • Stay calm and use your emergency contact information to make sure that if something happens you will be alerted right away. For more information and greater detail about how to prepare for a fire emergency you should already have a great resource: The Topanga Disaster Survival Guide. Take time now to read and review it. If we have an incident this season you will be glad you did. HANDY WEBSITES If you don’t have a copy of The Topanga Disaster Survival Guide, download it: topangasurvival.wordpress.com/survival-guide/ If there is a fire or you feel you need to evacuate the Canyon, go to t-cep.org/emergencystatus/ to find out the real-time status of any fire, earthquake, or flood. For real-time information and advice for any kind of emergency or disaster: t-cep.org/index.php.
Annemarie Donkin

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