Health & Safety

September 7, 2012

Diverting disaster

by Robert J. Kaschak
Emergency Management technician

As emergency management responders, we continually preach about the biggest threat to southern California—earthquakes.  However, Mother Nature reminded us last week that she can strike in different forms, on a moments notice and with tremendous force.

Mid-afternoon, Thursday, Aug. 30, we were hit with east coast-like impersonation of a mid-summer storm. The skies turned dark, winds reached speeds of 35 miles per hour, while crosswinds topped out at 25 mph and torrential downpours mixed with sleet battered our rain deprived landscape.  Next, thunder and lightning made an appearance and for a short time, the base alert system signaled for a tornado watch.

Inside of an hour, the base was flooded, particularly at the south end. Power lines were struck by fallen branches and Graeber Street, the base’s main artery, was practically impassable as water rose up to the doors of vehicles caught on the street trying to leave.

Fortunately, the storm dissipated about an hour and half later, but the amount of water that fell during this period of time, on land virtually incapable of absorption, wreaked havoc and concern that left several areas flooded. Within minutes, the fire department, security forces, civil engineer and emergency management were out assessing, performing damage control and ensuring people were able to exit the base safely.

Of course, we will get past this, but there is a much bigger lesson to be remembered. How ready are you to survive a disastrous event such as this?  Now, is the time to think about this, not when it happens.

Here are some simple guidelines to follow:

  • It starts with awareness, realize a disaster can strike at any time.
  • Be informed. Meet with your local city emergency responders and Red Cross to find out the hazards in your areas. They should have free information pamphlets and a list of websites with important reference material.
  • Develop a family communications plan that includes clear instructions on what to do and where to go.
  • Build an emergency kit of important items that your family deems necessary.

The FEMA website has many useful suggestions on what a kit should contain, however, a quick search on the internet will get a plethora of sites to access.  A good rule of thumb is to plan for a minimum of 72 hours to be without assistance.

Get involved in your community. There is always safety, strength and resources in numbers. Getting to know people in your area can be extremely beneficial as you can make a community plan and help each other. One of your neighbors may be considered a safe place to go in your plan.

The event that took place last Thursday can easily happen again and with even more devastating consequences. Remember, preparation starts with being aware, so stay informed, make a plan, build a kit and get involved in your community.  Your actions will help reduce the impact of the disaster, possibly save lives or prevent injuries.  For more data, information and ideas access the FEMA website at www.fema.gov. Or call the Emergency Management office at 951-655-3024.




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