San Diego County leaders and fire officials have developed a unique evacuation plan in case a wildfire threatens homes in the midst of a pandemic that requires people to stay six feet apart.
Typically, if a wildfire forces evacuations, residents would be funneled into a shelter at an open location like a gym or auditorium where they would have access to food, water and other resources. But this fire season, the county has had to consider how to keep residents safe from both wildfires and the novel coronavirus.
A new evacuation plan was created that could utilize hotels or motels to house evacuees in groups fewer than 50 people instead of inside larger traditional shelters.
“We’re entering the riskiest part of the wildfire season while still being in the middle of an unprecedented health crisis,” Supervisor Dianne Jacob said. “That is forcing us to rethink and retool our disaster-planning efforts.”
The county said the Red Cross San Diego/Imperial County (SDIC) has located nearly 200 lodging sites where shelter can be safely be provided amid the pandemic. They have also located temporary evacuation sites that will allow for physical distancing.
They also want San Diegans to be aware that if evacuations are necessary, there will be changes for both first responders and residents.
For example, residents under evacuation should be ready to alert first responders if they have flu-like symptoms or are COVID-19 positive.
At shelters, instead of cafeteria-style meals, evacuees will be provided with packaged meals, the Red Cross said.
While the county is updating its emergency plans to be prepared for a wildfire season unlike any other, leaders urge residents to do the same. San Diegans are asked to go to ReadySanDiego.org to develop a plan specific to the pandemic.