Susan Rogers: I’ve seen fire, I’ve seen rain
These ongoing late rains have not slowed Nevada County residents’ desire to help decrease local wildfire risk.
The free Green Waste Disposal program on weekends in May was a raging success, with dumpsters filling up ahead of expectation, causing the Fire Safe Council and Waste Management to scramble for additional dumpsters to meet demand.
I’ve been asked if the rain will help or hurt the overall risk of fire. Though I’m far from an expert, history suggests that lighter, shorter rains might have helped, but this lengthy, ongoing rain probably will increase the fuel load. Those who already mowed their grassy areas will probably have to do it again in another month or so.
After addressing the vegetation management issues, the next thing we all need to do is actually do the in-home preparation we know we’re supposed to. You know what I’m talking about: preparing the Go Bag and/or Emergency Supply Kit, writing down our Emergency Communication Plan and discussing it with all household members (and out-of-town family, too), practicing an evacuation, driving all potential evacuation routes in advance (maybe even at night) so they are familiar, and more.
What stops us from taking these important steps? What makes us procrastinate? Yes, some of it is simple denial – not wanting to believe that we’d actually have to leave our homes with (we hope) our most precious possessions in our car, not knowing if or when we could ever return. But for many, I think it’s simply that it’s darn hard to get started! In most households, the responsibility for taking action usually falls on one person, and it takes some effort to “just do it.”
The County of Nevada has stepped up in a big way to help everyone this year. By now, all residents should have received a 20-page Ready-Set-Go Handbook in the mail. They are also launching the website http://www.ReadyNevadaCounty.com, with excellent information. Kudos to the County team behind these resources.
You no longer have an excuse to not get ready. If you’d previously felt overwhelmed by the sheer volume of different what-to-do materials, now it’s all there together in the Ready-Set-Go Handbook. Here are two tips to make it work for you:
1. Create some structure and accountability for yourself. The Handbook provides the beginning structure, with checklists and forms whose blank spaces just beg to be filled in (this is way better than just reading bullet point lists or dense paragraphs of instructions). So make an appointment with yourself and fill them in!
Here’s another thing I’ve done that gives me great peace of mind. We have friends who live about 20 miles away (one family is south, way down Dog Bar, the other west in Browns Valley), and we’ve agreed to be mutual-aid partners if either household needs to evacuate. We can pack our cars and head to their house (or vice-versa) to hang out for a few hours until we know what’s going on and if it’s safe to go back.
Compare this to the nerve-wracking process of wondering if you should leave, but where will you go? Starbucks in Auburn will probably be jammed. Walmart in Roseville? Not exactly an enticing prospect. If you have friends or relatives anywhere within 20-45 miles, call them up and ask if they will be your temporary refuge while waiting out news of a wildfire. The likelihood of you needing to take them up on it is low but very real, and having the security of a known, comfortable place to go will make it much easier for you to decide to leave early, which is one of the keys to survival.
2. See page 13 of the Handbook, on “Find Your Five.” By identifying a small group of friends or relatives who can be a support group for each other, you can go beyond the County’s suggestion of just being a phone check-in group during emergencies. You can make yourselves accountable to each other around the activities of preparing a Go Bag, filling out the Communications Plan, and more.
What do I mean? Here’s the structure: get your group to agree on a deadline date by which you will all have the various activities completed (preparing the Go Bag, filling in the Communications Plan, etc.) Here’s the accountability: agree that on (or right after) the deadline, you will check in with each other to ask if the tasks are completed. The secret to success: agree that it’s OK to ask, and agree not to be offended or annoyed when they do ask!
We’ve seen rain and eventually we’ll see fire. We must work together to stay safe. Friends don’t let friends not be ready.
Are you Ready, Nevada County?
Susan Rogers is member of The Union’s Editorial Board. Her opinions are her own and do not necessarily reflect those of the Coalition, the Editorial Board or its members. She can be reached at EditBoard@theunion.com.
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