San Diego

County Works to Strengthen Fire Evacuation Plans for Rural Communities

With Santa Ana winds on the way, the County Board of Supervisors want to make sure San Diego's rural neighborhoods have a plan of action in case a wildfire starts.

While the county feels it is one of the best coordinated regions in the state, they noted an area for improvement is at the neighborhood level, especially in unincorporated areas.

Supervisors were presented with a report Tuesday, focusing specifically on evacuation capabilities as a follow-up to the county’s resiliency program approved by the board in September.

They said the key here is working aggressively with Fire Safe Councils, sometimes referred to as the "neighborhood watch" fire safety, and FEMA’s Community Emergency Response Teams (CERTs) which consist of civilians trained to protect their neighborhood in the event of an emergency.

Over the next three years Cal Fire will work with every Fire Safe Councils in the county to update wildfire protection plans while addressing fuel management, animal evacuations and implementing at least three exit routes from each community.

The Office of Emergency Services will also launch a pilot program at the end of 2019 pairing CERT members with elderly residents and people with disabilities who may not be able to self-evacuate during a wildfire.

The neighbor-helping-neighbor approach should be rolled out countywide in 2020.

A recent survey found 50 percent of San Diegans are prepared to evacuate in less than 15 minutes, but only 38 percent said they have completed a family disaster plan, the Office of Emergency Services reported.

Board of Supervisors Chairwoman Dianne Jacob said, “It's looking at each community in detail and to make sure everybody has an evacuation plan. Everyone knows about it and in the event of a fire, then they're prepared to escape and they know the best route to escape from.”

When asked about the SDG&E power shutoffs, Jacob called it a public safety risk.

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