Author: SuperUser Account/Monday, September 28, 2015/Categories: Evacuations, Fire
San Bernardino Mountains, October 25, 2003 – I rose early that day to board a school bus with high school band students and booster parents to participate in the annual UCLA Band Day in Los Angeles. Prior to reaching our destination, cell phones started to ring. Back home, family and friends were calling and texting to advise that a wildfire had erupted at the bottom of the mountain. We continued to head toward the Rose Bowl, hopeful the fire would be quickly extinguished. Conditions did not allow for this, and the fire continued to spread at a rapid rate. The devastating wildfire would become known as the Old Fire.
Old Fire statistics:
* 91,281 acres burned
* 12 injuries
* 940 homes
* 30 commercial properties destroyed
* 35 homes damaged
* $37,650,000 dollar loss
* 4,211 firefighters assigned at peak of fire
* 6 deaths
We were not allowed to go home that night, nor for the next two weeks. After the game concluded, I went to an American Red Cross shelter. I had nowhere else to go. Subsequent nights, I stayed at the homes of friends and family until evacuation orders were lifted.
My mom, home in Lake Arrowhead when the fire erupted, was evacuated off the mountain with tens of thousands of other residents and visitors. During the evacuation, family members got separated and sought refuge at various locations. There was a period of time when we did not know where family members were. By this time, cell phone batteries began to die and communications ceased. It was stressful not knowing where family members were or if they were safe.
Since the Old Fire, I have developed a Family Disaster Plan and have distributed it to family members so they will know my plan in times of emergency. I have attached my plan for your reference as well as a template to use to develop your own Family Disaster Plan.
I hope you never experience a calamitous event, but if you do, having a plan in place and making sure family members are familiar with the plan, will provide greater peace of mind and promote disaster resiliency.
To learn more about family disaster planning, visit ready.gov or listo.gov.
Michelle Caldwell is an Emergency Services Coordinator with County of Riverside's Emergency Management Department, serving the City of Indio.
** Image from http://www.esri.com/news/arcnews/winter0304articles/gis-helps.html
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