By Julie BUTCHER
LA City and County officials held a town hall meeting on Nov. 14 at All Nations Church in Lake View Terrace to help local residents prepare for the upcoming winter storm season.
“I’m not a meteorologist,” joked Los Angeles County director of Emergency Management Jeff Reeb, “but I predict that it’s going to rain. And if it rains this year like it did last year, or it rains a lot in a short time – and if you’re in an area that burned in the La Tuna Canyon fire – you could be in danger again and you need to be prepared. That includes being prepared to evacuate.”
“After the fire, our focus is on resilience – and preparing for the rains and the mud we know will come,” added Reeb. “In any emergency, first responders will get there as quickly as we possibly can, but we’ve learned through all sorts of recent disasters [that] the first responders are most likely going to be your family members and your neighbors. For the first 24 to 48 hours, you may be on your own. That’s why being prepared is so important, and that’s why we’re here tonight.”
County Supervisor Kathryn Barger and Los Angeles City Councilmember Monica Rodriguez organized the meeting specifically to address preparation for winter coming to the area that burned in the Sept. 1 La Tuna Canyon Fire.
Rodriguez thanked the first responders in attendance, acknowledging their work in protecting life and property during the fire.
“But this evening is about what we’re doing to prepare for what comes next,” the Councilwoman said. “Ours is a collaborative approach. For instance, we’re working together to designate streets that we may need to keep clear using the existing red tag system, so we’re better prepared for emergency vehicles to move in and out when they need to.”
Barger also thanked the area’s first responders.
“All of those of us who live here owe you each a deep debt of gratitude, and I thank you. The way this community came together when the fire hit, that’s how we need to come together now to face the coming storm season – prepared and ready for anything, resilient as we know we can be.”
Aram Sahakian, City of Los Angeles emergency management head, took the stage to give out his cellphone number to the crowd (213) 216-6210. Then he rattled off all of the agencies responsible for helping respond to the fire, including “all of the fire and police departments, the forest service, County Public Works and Public Health, transportation, recreation & parks, animal services, street services; they’re all out in the lobby with important information you can pick up. Our job is to ensure that first responders have what they need to do their jobs. Next on the list are continuing the recovery and building our collective resiliency.”
“Text the word RESILIENT to the number 888-777,” Sahakian instructed. “Sign up for emergency alerts wherever you live. Once you sign up, we can keep you informed in case of any emergency. Plus, because we know who you are and exactly where you are, once you mark yourself safe, we don’t have to look for you. This means we can use resources on those really in need. For the peace of mind of your friends and family, go to NotifyLA or MySafeLA and sign up.”
County Public Works emergency management director Rossana D’Antonio explained the concerns for the upcoming rainy season.
“The area that burned retains less water and storm water runoff, debris and mudflow could all endanger humans and homes. Power may be lost. We may need to evacuate. That’s why we all need to be prepared.”
She offered some specific tips.
“If you can’t see the road, turn around. Sign up for emergency alerts, as others have urged. Join a local CERT [Community Emergency Response Team] – you can sign up just outside this meeting. Stop by any one of 106 local fire stations in LA County – pick up sand and sand bags, say thank you. Make a plan, share it with your family and neighbors.”
She continued, “Make sure you have an emergency ‘go bag’ for each family member. We know how important it is to plan for the safety of livestock and pets because we know that people will jeopardize their own well being to save their pets. We don’t want to wait until it’s too late to plan. Get sand bags if you need. Clear visible debris. There’s a guidebook for homeowners outside [the meeting] and online.”
“I’m here for ways to deal with mudslides,” said one participant after the meeting. “My neighbor says, ‘Mud’s not coming here,’ but I think that’s ridiculous. I’m going to be maximum prepared.”
For emergency alerts:
• In Los Angeles County, sign up for “Alert LA County” at www.lacounty.gov/emergency/alert-la
• In the City of Los Angeles, join “NotifyLA” at: http://emergency.lacity.org/notifyla or “MySafeLA” at http://www.mysafela.org/
The City of Glendale encourages residents to register on its website http://www.glendaleca.gov.