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League of California Cities

Santa Rosa Works to Ensure Residents Are Disaster Ready as Wildfires Continue to Burn Throughout the State

As wildfires ravage so much of the Golden State, the city of Santa Rosa knows well the importance of being prepared. The city was threatened by the Kincade Fire last year while in the midst of recovery from the devastating 2017 Tubbs Fire and is bracing itself as this year’s challenging fire season gets underway.

According to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CAL FIRE), “since the beginning of the year, wildfires have now burned over 3.2 million acres in California. There have been 25 fatalities and over 4,200 structures destroyed. This year’s fire season has been a record-breaking year, in not only the total amount of acres burned, but six of the top 20 largest wildfires in California history have occurred in 2020.”

Sharing preparedness messages, tips, and tools to help residents be disaster ready is always critical, but they are especially top of mind for cities during September, which is National Preparedness Month.
 
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Santa Rosa has implemented a multi-faceted communications program utilizing multilingual materials that are easy-to-understand and provide clear instructions on how residents can prepare, access safety information, and be ready to evacuate during an emergency.

A 2020 National Preparedness Month Congressional Co-Chair U.S. Representative Lucille Roybal-Allard (CA-40) said, “Planning and preparing for disasters and emergencies of all sorts is always important, but especially now during a national health crisis.”

Santa Rosa city officials couldn’t agree more. They have updated their messaging and materials to urge residents to take precautions to protect themselves from COVID-19, in addition to natural disasters and other emergencies.

“Naturally, there is a lot of fear and apprehension during an emergency and this is amplified during a pandemic,” said Santa Rosa’s Chief Communications and Intergovernmental Relations Officer Adriane Mertens. “We’re working hard to maximize our community’s awareness of the importance of proactive disaster planning.”

The city uses a variety of outreach strategies such as creating videos and radio PSAs in Spanish and English, sharing information on social media, and through their weekly e-newsletter. A postcard was also mailed to residents with information on how to identify their evacuation zone by using the interactive tool on the city’s website, and gain access to the additional preparedness resources.

To align with the National Preparedness Month theme, “Disasters Don’t Wait. Make Your Plan Today,” the city of Santa Rosa is encouraging residents take the following four actions this month:
  • Determine your Evacuation Zone. Memorize your zone or write it down and post somewhere convenient so that you can quickly evacuate if orders for your zone were issued during a large-scale emergency requiring mass evacuations.
  • Santa-Rosa-_EvacZones2.pngLearn about the emergency alerting tools used to warn you in the event of an emergency.  The City uses multiple notification and warning systems to make sure emergency alerts are delivered to the people who need the information.
  • Review a Pre-Evacuation Checklist. This includes guidance for packing your “Go Bag” and updating it with COVID-19 necessities, like face coverings and sanitization supplies.
  • Know all the recommended travel routes out of your neighborhood. Any of the recommended routes could be determined by public safety officials to be the evacuation route for your neighborhood during an emergency.
While cities can’t prevent disasters, they play an important role in educating residents that emergency preparedness saves lives. Simple steps such as encouraging residents to write down their evacuation zone and put it somewhere easy to find goes a long way in facilitating mass evacuations.

In a message to residents Santa Rosa Fire Chief Tony Gossner said, “the events of the last few weeks remind us that an emergency can happen at any time. Now is the time to make a plan and prepare. The city has created several online tools and resources to help guide you through emergency preparedness, and I encourage everyone to review the material without delay.”

Your city can access more information, including preparedness tips, messaging, and other resources to share with your community by visiting the Governor’s Office of Emergency Services National Preparedness Month webpage or the U.S. Department of Homeland Security National Preparedness Month webpage.

This story was featured in the CA Cities Advocate Newsletter on Sept. 16, 2020.
© League of California Cities