Nevada County gets evacuation planning upgrade
Special to the Sierra Sun
Nevada County will receive two years of zone-based evacuation planning services, thanks to a donation from private software company Zonehaven.
The Board of Supervisors on Tuesday accepted the donation valued at just over $84,000, which comes after Zonehaven was awarded a grant from the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation to identify California counties to partner with at no cost.
Zonehaven is also donating services to Yuba and Placer counties.
According to the company’s website, it uses algorithms to identify “key intersections and choke points” along with real time weather conditions, geographic data and local knowledge from law enforcement agencies.
The county could be split into more than 200 different zones accounting for local conditions and on-the-ground knowledge about how best to evacuate the county’s unique areas.
The zone system could also be used in conjunction with the county’s Code Red system to more quickly send out targeted messages.
“When residents know the zone they reside in, they’ll be less likely to be confused as to whether they’re under an evacuation order or warning when we announce the zones being affected,” Emergency Operations Coordinator Lt. Bob Jakobs said.
Zonehaven’s Evacuation Management Platform also allows emergency responders to create simulations that can even be used during real life situations to create recommendations for evacuating.
After the first two donated years, officials estimate the price to continue service would be about $35,000 per year, though there are no guarantees that price won’t change in two years.
“I’ve been involved with contracts in the past with government agencies where after a couple of years the software developer says, ’Oh, you want to keep it, then you have to pay for it.’ And they jack up the price,” District 1 Supervisor Heidi Hall said.
“Or they don’t want to give you access to the data. There’s lots of issues like that.”
Jakobs said one benefit of this arrangement is that if the county chooses not to use Zonehaven after two years, they can take the data and continue zone-based evacuation planning with the tools already on hand.
“We’re not going to leave our community hanging,” Jakobs said.
According to Jakobs, the goal is to have the system implemented by early summer.
John Orona is a staff writer for The Union, a sister publication of the Sierra Sun. Contact John by email at email@example.com or call 530-477-4229.
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