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How To Prepare For The Next San Diego Wildfire

Flames from the Witch Creek fire light up the early Friday morning sky in northern San Diego County, Oct. 26, 2007.
Jon Vidar / Associated Press
Flames from the Witch Creek fire light up the early Friday morning sky in northern San Diego County, Oct. 26, 2007.
How To Prepare For The Next San Diego Wildfire
RB United President: Personal Preparedness Is Key In Wildfire Situation GUEST:Valerie Brown, project coordinator, RB United

One of the other issues to come out of the 2007 fires is how prepared are San Diegans for the next fire? The 2017 county of San Diego preparedness survey found that in several areas like be prepared to evacuate in 15 minutes or having an emergency plan San Diegans are less prepared than in 2007. A woman who wants to shake up that complacency and make safety a major issue for San Diego is my guest Valerie brown. She's help cities create safe councils and work with the emergency services on response plans and volunteers. Welcome.Thank you so much.Your group literally began with the trial by fire to help the recovery effort here after the Witch Creek Fire. What did they do?We worked with United policyholders to start a workshop series called run that to recovery. Every week or so we had an expert come in work with our families on how to go through the rebuilding process whether it was permitting, dealing with insurance, mental health all of those supports that people needed to go through the rebuilding process. We just poured a lot of resources into making sure that we could provide wraparound services to meet where everyone was during the recovery so that we had the best outcomes possible for our community members.How has the organization focus change since that time?As most of our families were rebuilding and moving on, we switch gears to preparedness. We were funded by redcross and the San Diego foundation to do a senior preparedness program. We set up a citizens court Council of ducks regionally and establish one and Rancho Bernardo. We were literally just doing everything that we you up to mitigate the circumstances our families face on October 22.What is your reaction to the preparedness survey that preparedness is down question markI'm not surprised. There's the institutional memory to these things in a community so while looking at the numbers, unimpressed that 90% of the people know two was out of the neighborhood. A lot of people did not think like that in 2007 but with the changing demographics people moving there a lot of people now in the neighborhood are very complacent because they haven't experienced that disaster to know what to do. The first couple of years after 2007 it was that catch question people would ask where were you evacuated to and where were you when you got the notice? What did you take with you? There was this common dialogue in the community and as our population has changed, there's a lack of awareness. Being prepared takes time and a lot of people are so busy in the daily lives that they don't stop to take that time.What are the key things individuals and families can do to care for the next fire?From a homeowner standpoint, this home mission zone and things that you can do to better protect your home and that is on CalFire website on how to harden your home. Having your preparedness with the to go back and having an evacuation plan communication plan. If you have pets practicing how you're going to get them in the car. An important thing we found that is facing Northern California today is making sure that your adequately insured. That was huge. We still have lots and Rancho Bernardo that are vacant because people did not have the insurance to ensure that they could be built.I been speaking with Valerie brown, head of RB United. Thank you for speaking with us today.Thank you.

In the aftermath of the 2007 wildfires, a fledgling volunteer-run organization called RB United played a key role in helping Rancho Bernardo residents rebuild their homes. The Witch Creek Fire burned down 365 homes in the community.

Following the rebuilding, the organization's focus shifted to encouraging residents to be prepared for emergencies like fire and earthquakes.


Valerie Brown, project coordinator for RB United, said the biggest missing piece in responding to future wildfires is that people are not prepared to quickly evacuate their homes.

Brown recommends having a to-go bag ready and easily accessible, having an evacuation plan and creating a family communication plan.

"One of the most important things we found that's facing Northern California today is making sure you're adequately insured," Brown said. "We still have lots in Rancho Bernardo that are vacant because people did not have the insurance to ensure that they could rebuild."

Fire Safe Councils of San Diego County have resources on how to protect your home from fire, Brown said.

Brown joins KPBS Midday Edition on Friday to discuss how residents can be better prepared for the next wildfire.


Evacuation Checklist

United Policyholders, a non-profit organization that provides consumers with resources and information about insurance, prepared this checklist of important documents to take when you evacuate in addition to sentimental items:

Insurance policies and related correspondence

Passports and birth certificates

Family Photos

Tax and loan documents

Stocks and bonds

Wills and trusts

Plans or blueprints of your home

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