Danny Richardson, American Legion Post 800 commander, signs the agreement with Community Action Partnership on Friday, Dec. 9, to host the Idyllwild Warming Center. The Legion had previously hosted the center from 2010 through 2015.
Photo by Marshall Smith

The Idyllwild Warming Center, located at the American Legion Post 800 at 54360 Marian View Drive, has an activation protocol different from those used by the Community Action Partnership with all its off-Hill warming center partners. CAP off-Hill activation protocol calls for opening warming centers are 40 degrees or below.

On Friday, Dec. 9, 2016, the Legion and CAP renewed a warming center agreement previously in effect from 2010 through December 2016. In January 2016, CAP had curtailed its partnership with the Legion and opened one with Town Hall. 

As part of the renewed agreement with the Legion, CAP and county representatives specifically acknowledged the Legion would “self activate based on specific temperature parameters and needs” particular to Idyllwild. There was considerable discussion among meeting participants about why the CAP off-Hill standard (40 degrees or below) would be impractical for Idyllwild. As is the case with other CAP partner warm centers, individual centers are not mandated to open — they may decide to open, based on their own business needs and ability, when given activation notification by CAP or other agencies. 

What has been the case with the Legion in the past will continue. The executive board of the Legion will look at temperature and weather conditions, determine manpower available, and then decide how and when to open as a warming center.

At the Dec. 9 meeting, Jose Aballo, Riverside County Department of Public Health information specialist said, “It’s up to you guys to establish hours of operation. We’re not obligating you to stay open late [during evening hours].” Legion Commander Danny Richardson stated, “One of the officers of the Post will stay here all night if necessary.”

An “Idyllwild Warming Center Activation Protocol” drafted in December 2011 specified the center would open whenever:

• An electrical outage affecting a number of homes, neighborhoods or a greater Idyllwild area causes power to be out for three hours or more when temperatures are 30 degrees or lower.

• Or when temperatures are 20 degrees or below for a 24-hour period.

As part of the discussion at the Dec. 9 meeting, Legion officers discussed means to notify the community about when the center is activated, including using Mountain Disaster Preparedness’ communication network, Legion signs around town, WNKI, by adding an activation banner to the Legion banner over North Circle, and through other agencies including the HELP Center, the Idyllwild Fire Department and the county’s Office of Emergency Services.

Richardson noted that those needing warmth can always come to the Legion’s meeting room even if the center is not officially activated. Post officers can update the previous Idyllwild activation protocol if they determine other standards would better serve the community.

At 2:19 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 24, Idyllwild resident Avianna Jones posted on Facebook “Warm Center is open today, December 24, 2016, American Legion, 54360 Marian View Dr., Idyllwild.” Richardson noted, “Jones in not a member of the Legion, is not on the Executive Board and has no authority to speak for the Legion as to whether the center has been activated or not.” He also said the warm center was not open that day.