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September 23, 2020
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  • Fire storm, taken from Skyfarm Dr. in Fountain Grove at 1 a.m. Oct. 24. Courtesy of Chris Miller

By: Cassandra May Albaugh
November 1, 2019

The Tubbs fire 2017...  notice of mandatory evacuation at six in the morning – out of the house 30 minutes later. Yeah – it was crazy scary, and we weren’t ready to flee. We grabbed a lot of stuff to take that was very important. But we also grabbed stuff that was probably unnecessary. Given that experience you would think I’d be ready to go if the Kincade Fire made it necessary. I was more ready but certainly not ready. There was no prepared go bag or kit in the closet or the trunk. But unlike 2017, this time there is plenty of time to prepare and pack what to take if I needed to flee ahead of the flames.

So, while I still had power and light before the planned weekend Public Safety Power Shut-off, I figured this was an appropriate time to plan what to take just in case. So, I put together a box of important records, photos, a purse filled with things irreplaceable or full of memories. I also filled a shoulder bag with the most important papers such as Birth Certificate, Will, and other legal documents that would be hard to replace and might be needed immediately. That way – if I had to abandon my vehicle or any of my possessions, the box would be first to go. A couple of bags of clothes. Again, one a shoulder bag that I could carry with a minimum change of clothing, my meds, extra glasses etc. And the second one just clothing items in case my stay would be extended. A couple of jackets, a flashlight, toiletries and maybe a blanket sitting ready to gather up and go. Then I took pictures of my apartment just in case.

Then I decided to go on the internet to see how I did in my choices. OMG! Talk about information overload. I could spend days reading all the articles, printing and using the various checklists. Some were designed for natural disasters such as earthquakes or hurricanes; others for floods or wildfires. So, I needed to really narrow my focus on what I was expecting in my worst-case scenario. For example, this isn’t Alaska. And I’m not expecting to have to survive extreme cold weather for days on end.

So, I narrowed down my search to two sources that I found useful. They were an article in Newsweek (https://www.newsweek.com/prepare-power-outage-electricity-shutdown-emergency-kit-evacuation-plan-1467236) related to preparing for the power outage. Since it was published on the 23rd of this month, it seemed the most current. Their story was based on advice from government and charitable organizations as well as from the Red Cross and NBC News. 

The other was a Channel 4 NBC News story (https://www.nbclosangeles.com/news/local/Tip-for-Evacuating-Fire-Hill-Woolsey-Safety-Kit-Emergency-500158181.html) from Nov. of last year. Although a year old – it was based on information from a Fire Chief and the Sheriff’s Department and was focused specifically on evacuations in the case of wildfires. 

So, here was their list of what to take:

“The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s department also reminded residents to take the following items with them when evacuating:

Your identification

Your medications

Any important documents you might have or need (birth certificates, marriage certificates, etc.)

Any emergency supplies you need

A small bag with a change of clothes and toiletries”

Although not perfect, I did pretty well. I already was signed up for emergency alerts. The cell phone was kept fully charged. In addition, the vehicle was filled with gas, bottled water was handy to grab, I planned to unplug electronics, and evacuation plans were discussed in advance with family and my circle of friends so that we could mutually support each other and rendezvous out of the area as needed.  Of course, I could do better. I really need to get a First Aid kit for my vehicle. Although it’s unlikely I’d have to go many days without food – maybe a small stash of canned goods and a can opener should be considered. Need another flashlight and extra batteries too.

 Of course, the “proof is in the pudding” right? When the immediate threat recedes will I really take the time to purchase and pre-pack an evacuation kit for the next time? Or will I assume that there won’t be a next time or that I’ll have plenty of time to decide what to take like I did this time? Being better prepared than last time is good, but really being prepared for next time is even better. How about you? What’s your plan?

 

And on another day…

All hands-on deck...

It’s been a heck of a week and it’s not over yet. The Kincade fire put 200 thousand folks on the move. The evacuation from West County, Healdsburg, Geyserville, Windsor, and a large part of Santa Rosa sent folks fleeing north, south and east and if lucky to family and friends. Others went in search of evacuation shelters in Santa Rosa, Petaluma, Napa and Marin. For many, especially with horse trailers or RVs or no place but their car to go, large parking lots like those at Costco, Walmart, or by Big Lots and Target at the Expressway Marketplace Shopping Center became a temporary destination until they figured out what to do and where to go or just to wait until they can go home.  To make matters worse, many areas of the county were under a PG&E Public Safety Power Shut-Off, but not all areas. Parts of Santa Rosa and Rohnert Park and points south of us had some power.

So, questions like where can I eat a hot meal, charge my phone, use a restroom were frequent for those displaced citizens within our county who were on the move and weren’t otherwise sheltered with family or friends lucky enough to have power. All day I monitored KZST Radio and heard person after person try to answer those questions by calling in on-air. Many of the answers were to be found in our community of Rohnert Park. This gas station is open. That store has masks and generators. You can charge your phone here. Take your kids to this place or that place. Get groceries at this store. Use the ATM or visit an open bank here. A lot of the answers were about what restaurants and fast food places were open.

I decided to call around and talk to restaurants in Rohnert Park to see what was happening directly from them. Before I share what, I found – some qualifiers. There are many restaurants and fast food places in Rohnert Park. I couldn’t check them all, so I selected a sample of places I’ve gone to myself with my family and friends. I only called restaurants, not fast food establishments such as Burger King, Taco Bell, or Carl’s Jr. In addition, I was calling on a Mon. Not all restaurants are open Mondays.  If I couldn’t get through on the phone, I didn’t assume they were without power or not open unless they had an answering machine that said so. They may have been closed or without power or they might have been just too busy to answer the phone. For example, Applebee’s Grill at 501 Rohnert Park Expressway is open and serving customers. Their phone system told me to call back later as all their staff were busy serving customers. Even if I got through, sometimes a restaurant didn’t want to be talked about in the paper.

My first call went to Mary’s Pizza Shack at 101 Golf Course Dr. I chose them because I heard that many folks stopped in that area for gas at the Chevron and Shell stations. There are other restaurants in that area such as Amy’s or at the Casino – but I was familiar with Mary’s and knew that they are very involved in community projects and fund-raising efforts, so I was curious how they were doing supporting our community once again. Yes, they’re open. They are busy serving their customers their Italian Cuisine and Pizzas. Although their normal hours are 11 a.m. until 10:30 p.m. they closed early Monday based on being short-staffed. They expect to be open for the remainder of the week but are taking it day-by-day based on employee availability according to employee Connor Southerland. Connor also told me they are allowing customers to bring in their pets because they know those evacuated can’t leave them at home.