by Michael B. Sherman, Interim Fire Chief

In April, I wrote about being prepared for the large fires and potential evacuations. I said at the end of that article I would have more later on survival “in place” for major disasters. Also, last month I talked about changes at IFPD, such as the recruitment of a new fire chief. I will touch on both subjects in this column.

It is never too early to prepare for emergencies. In case of a major disaster, like an earthquake, it is important to know how to survive “in place” without any services.

It used to be the norm to have everyone prepared to live without help for 72 hours during a major disaster. Most professionals now have increased that time to 120 hours (5 days), especially in the mountains.

Mountain residents can easily be isolated for long periods of time. I believe mountain residents should be prepared to take care of themselves for up to two weeks.

Why would that be? First, emergency services (law enforcement, fire and emergency medical) are thin at best in mountainous, rural areas. Just regularly expected fires, EMS calls, and crimes stress local services.

Second, major population centers will be the highest priority for outside resources in most major disasters. It is real simple, the greater the number of people threatened, the greater the need for response (therefore, higher priority).

Finally, there are far less agency representatives available on the mountain at any one time than there are in higher population centers. The representatives that are on the mountain will be up to their ears in “doing” emergency response, therefore, diminishing their potential for getting in the right queues for outside help. One great thing is that state, county, and local disaster resource coordination in Riverside County is as good as any in the nation.

So how should you prepare? First, make sure ample water, food, heat, light, dry clothing, medicines, sanitary facilities, and first aid supplies are available to you without outside help to last at least two weeks for everyone you must care for (including pets) and a little left over to possibly help close neighbors.

Second, make sure everyone in your group knows the plan on how those resources will be used, especially if one or more members are gone or injured. Third, have a list of individuals or agencies you can contact once you have the ability to communicate out from your location or travel for help. These lists need all the standard emergency numbers and addresses, but you also need friends, neighbors, and family members information.

Local fire departments, the Sheriff’s office, the County OES, Cal EMA, the Red Cross, and FEMA all have great resource documents for preparing for emergencies.

Finally, get involved in local preparedness groups. The mountain has at least three great locally coordinated groups that can help with information and training from “nuts to bolts” concerning local emergencies. They are the Mountain Communities Fire Safe Council, Mountain Disaster Preparedness, and the Mountain Community Emergency Response Team. They will help you and your family members prepare for many different threats, but you can also help your community as a whole to be better prepared.

Now, about the new fire chief, the board of commissioners directed me to advertise for the recruitment of a new fire chief. That was done from late May to June 10. The board then interviewed the top four candidates Saturday, June 23. Background checks and potential contract negotiations have begun. If successful, the board hopes to announce their new fire chief within the next few weeks.

I have agreed to stick around long enough to create a smooth transition of leadership through the first few weeks after the new chief arrives. Then my family and I will be moving on to our next challenge.

Until next time, its time to put out the dog and douse the fire.