Be prepared to evacuate your Hill domiciles, was the message of the latest Mountain Disaster Preparedness meeting last week. Nothing imminently threatens the Hill’s residents, but all of the speakers at Tuesday’s meeting, held at Idyllwild Library, emphasized the importance of being prepared for an emergency.
Many of the speakers used the example of the amount of time between the start of the Mountain and Silver fires, and the issuing of evacuation orders.
“The Mountain Fire and Silver Fire were two different animals,” said MDP President Michael Feyder. “How lucky we were during the Mountain Fire. The evacuation went smoothly. A month later, [with] the Silver Fire, there was no time to prepare to go. They had to go without any thought to what to do.”
Idyllwild Fire Chief Patrick Reitz compared the two fires. The evacuation order for Idyllwild due to the Mountain Fire was issued Wednesday, July 17, two days after the fire began. The Silver Fire in Poppet Flats and Twin Pines began burning Wednesday, Aug. 7, and the evacuation order was issued within hours.
Residents were permitted to return to Idyllwild Sunday, July 21. The evacuation order for the Silver Fire was partially lifted Saturday, Aug. 10, and fully lifted Monday, Aug. 12. Both evacuations lasted at least three days.
Residents, even part-time residents, need to be prepared to go on a moment’s notice and for days. Each speaker discussed the steps to take to be prepared.
Insurance is important, stressed Caleb Kirk of TWFG Insurance. Homeowners’ policies and many others for renters have a clause to cover expenses from the loss of residential use. This would include costs for meals and places to stay, such as motels.
He also recommended taking photos, even digital, of personal property in case the house is permanently lost due to disaster. Also, scanning important personal documents such as insurance policies is a good practice.
Back-up medicine is a good precaution advised Idyllwild Pharmacist Barry Shapiro. Collecting a few extra pills from each month’s supply can quickly provide one or two weeks’ back-up in case of evacuation.
However, he did advise taking copies of a prescription bottle. With this and a call to one’s doctor, most pharmacists would gladly fill a new prescription, he said.
Besides Reitz, fire officials from Riverside County Fire Department, including Chief John Hawkins, and the county Sheriff’s Department’s Hemet Station, including Capt. Ray Wood, were at the meeting.
As he began, Reitz said his comments were to be “thought provoking and help motivate you to learn more about disaster preparedness, and becoming prepared for [disaster] is not if, but when.”
The questions one has to ask themselves before they evacuate, according to Reitz, begin with, “How long might you be gone?” But he emphasized that these questions should be posed now, not when the evacuation order is announced.
To effectively endure an evacuation, Reitz stressed, have a plan and practice, practice and practice. When asked what that means, he replied, “Whatever you plan to take with you, carry it out to the car — several times.”
Lt. Robert Perdue discussed how the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department organizes and implements the evacuation. He also stressed, “Know what you’ll do ahead of time.”
Once the evacuation has been implemented, the Sheriff’s Department intensifies its patrols of the area since so many people are now away. Nearly 100 sheriff’s deputies were watching Idyllwild during the Mountain Fire evacuation, he said.
Concluding the session, Nancy Layton, IFPD commissioner and MDP member, discussed a “go box” for these emergencies. Reitz also recommended a “go bag” for pets, too.
To register a phone, landline or cell number to be called if an Early Warning Notification is issued for the Hill, go to the County Fire Department’s website: www.countyofriverside.us/Residents/Emergencies/EarlyWarningNotificationSystem.aspx.