Emergency preparedness guide released | SierraSun.com

Emergency preparedness guide released

Nick Cruit
Sierra Sun

In a region that has a potential natural disaster for every season and few escape routes, planning for the worst is a necessity.

This fall, the North Tahoe Fire Protection District is mailing a new Emergency Preparedness and Evacuation Guide to all residential property owners.

The comprehensive guide includes evacuation routes, emergency planning guides and emergency contact information, and attempts to answer any questions people might have before, during or after a disaster.

“‘How do we get out of here?’ This is the question everyone asks in the case of an emergency,” said Fire Protection District Public Information Officer Ed Miller.

With few evacuation options, getting out of the Tahoe Basin could potentially be a difficult task. In a situation like the 1982 Alpine Meadows avalanche or the 1997 floods, both of which blocked Highway 89, the new evacuation guide will give people the alternative routes necessary if an evacuation were to take place.

The guide also serves as a emergency planning primer for businesses and families in the event of any disaster in the area.

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While an earthquake, wildfire or severe weather event could be the cause of a potential disaster, the guide advises, “take time to plan for the problems related to each type of disaster.”

“The big thing we see from other emergencies is how critical it is to have a family plan,” said the fire district Chief Duane Whitelaw. “Everyone needs to understand what to do.”

Plans become especially important when lines of communication are cut off. As evidenced during the Southern California wildfires currently burning, cell phone sites can become clogged due to the amount of people trying to use them at once.

Whether phone lines are destroyed or cell phones signals are incapacitated, Whitelaw insists families and businesses have a pre-identified plan to get around communication interferences.

Another concern with the North Tahoe area is the percentage of homes being rented out by second home owners. While the document targets property owners, information needs to be made available to renters.

“Nearly 70 percent of the properties in the North Tahoe Fire District are second homes,” said Whitelaw. “When the absentee owners rent their homes, often times the renters are the least prepared.”

One way to make this information available to renters is utilizing the magnet attached to the document’s plastic packaging. By placing the document on a refrigerator, safety information and emergency contacts that renters are unaware of can be in plain sight.

While practicing an evacuation plan may seem elementary, it is a necessary part of being prepared and will allow you to remain calm and listen to directions given by authorities.

“There’s a reason why we all had evacuation drills in school,” said Miller. “When the time comes it’s not as easy to be calm.”

While there has never been a large scale evacuation of the Tahoe Basin, the threat still warrants preparedness from public safety officials and citizens alike.

“Everyone will be working together to expedite people in the case of an evacuation,” said Miller. “If we have to do it, we have to do it.”

In the case of an emergency, notifications will be sent through available media. If a power outage occurs, the telephone system at the Placer County Sheriff’s dispatch office will automatically call to send alert messages.

“In an evacuation it’s important to remember you’re not alone,” says Whitelaw. “If we can work together there is a greater chance for preservation of life.”

In an effort to accommodate those seeking more information, the Fire Protection District is available to meet with families and groups of neighbors to discuss emergency and evacuation plans.

“We encourage groups of as many people as possible getting together to maximize benefits of neighbors looking after neighbors,” says Whitelaw.

To view a copy of the fire district’s emergency plan go to: http://www.ntfire.net/