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Evacuation is focus of many studies, few answers

Pointers brought up at North Sonoma Valley MAC meeting

By Jay Gamel

“If you don’t know what direction to go, identify where the threat is and go in the opposite direction,” Misty Wood explained. “Observe traffic both ways and take the least backed up. It may be the long way around, but there are no foolproof solutions for this question.”

Wood is community liaison officer for the Sonoma County Sheriff ’s Department and was giving an emergency situation rundown for the North Sonoma Valley Municipal Advisory Council and Supervisor Susan Gorin at their monthly meeting. She gives talks to groups throughout the county, helping people understand how to prepare for the emergencies that we continue to face, including wildfire, power outages, earthquakes, and more.

And the first thing people need to do is sign up for emergency alerts and learn the number of their evacuation area, she said. All the steps to do so are spelled out in detail on the socoemergency. org website. You can find your evacuation zone number by looking at the evacuation map provided at socoemergency.org. If you need personal help, call 2-1-1 or 1 (800) 325-9604, or text your zip code to 898-211.

This website has a wealth of information for everyone about all aspects of getting ready for emergencies, including a map of the preset evacuation zones, which are designated with three characters for county (SON— for Sonoma) and three digits for each specific block to be evacuated (123); i.e. SON-123. Write this down in big characters and stick it on the fridge or by the front door.

If you already know where you want to go in an evacuation, it’s a good idea to know the evacuation number of those places, as well.

“We tried to make sure that the zones have logical boundaries for loads and routes,” Wood said, “but make them small enough to have a reasonable number of people.” Too many people trying to pack a small road can lead to havoc.

“It was difficult in the first 12 to 24 hours of the Glass Fire,” in 2020, she said. “It was challenging to figure out what was going on. We didn’t have an immediate handle on that.”

Oakmont, Kenwood and Glen Ellen are all faced with limited choices for evacuations. State Highway 12 handles 90 percent or more of the traffic in and out of these communities. Oakmont residents had a tough time getting out in 2020, as the fire was right there at the highway. Warm Springs Road eventually gets to Santa Rosa and west of Sonoma Mountain, but it is narrow, winding and not ideal for moving large numbers of people quickly Emergency alerts are varied: police cars with hi-lo siren sounds (more European sounding), radio, TV and cable station announcements, and alerts sent directly to your phone, both landline and wireless.

“There’s no perfect solution to reach 500,000 people,” Wood said, adding that redundancies have been built into the systems.

You only get personal alerts if you sign up for them.

Sonoma County Alerts: Receive alerts through landline calls, cell phone text messages or prerecorded verbal messages and email. The system also works with telephone devices for the deaf. Sign up at public.coderedweb.com/ CNE/en-US/BF7053564662 or call (866) 9390911, ext. 2.

Nixle: Email and text messages from local fire and law enforcement agencies that include public safety messages as well as emergency information. Text your zip code to 888777 to optin.

NOAA: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Weather Radio. This alert system is available for purchase at a relatively low cost. When properly programmed, the National Weather Service can remotely turn on these radios and send basic alerts, including for wildfire. The message may be accompanied by a warning tone, depending on the model of radio you purchase.

There’s a lot to do to prepare for an evacuation.

“Have as many tools as you can before an evacuation to be prepared and confident,” Wood concluded.

NSVMAC features one or two speakers on topics of major interest to local residents. The virtual monthly meeting starts at 5:30 p.m. on the third Thursday of each month. For more info, visit https://sonomacounty.ca.gov/ North-Sonoma-Valley-Municipal-Advisory-Council/. Sign up for notices by contacting [email protected]

You can find your evacuation zone number by looking at the evacuation map provided at socoemergency.org. If you need personal help, call 2-1-1 or 1(800) 325-9604, or text your zip

code to 898-211.

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