How To Evacuate From Wildfire During Coronavirus Pandemic
Speaker 1: 00:01 Along with hot, dry Santa Ana conditions across San Diego County. This week, we've had a spate of small brush fires flare up. It's a reminder as if we needed one that wildfire season is here earlier than normal this year. And that's a bigger challenge than ever in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic. Joining me to discuss the compounded challenge this summer and fall is Sean Mahoney, regional chief executive officer for the American red cross and Southern California. Sean, welcome. Thanks for having me well, these hot and windy conditions smoke in the air today. Have many of us on edge start with the red cross plan, the preparations that are already in place this time of year, as we all prepare for the possibility of wildfires Speaker 2: 00:43 this weekend with the winds and the heat we've had it, it is a, uh, a reminder that disasters don't stop in a pandemic. So we have created new protocols to make sure that we're keeping everybody safe, uh, really concerned about the safety of our own ears in the community. So we've adjusted how we are going to, uh, do sheltering and feeding, uh, and how we're going to interact with people when we have to evacuate from their home. Typically when people have to evacuate from a neighborhood, uh, they're sent by officials to emperor evacuation, uh, we've identified 37 locations throughout San Diego County that are covered parking areas. So they have the solar panels, uh, covering the parking spaces, uh, and that allows people to remain in their cars when they evacuate. And our service associates can provide them information and direct them when needed, uh, but they can and their family and household in their vehicle. Speaker 1: 01:42 And one of the big challenges I understand is you're just going to need a lot more shelters because we all have to continue to social distance, even though we're fleeing a wildfire. Speaker 2: 01:52 Yeah, absolutely. Um, you know, typically when the red cross shelters, people venture, you've seen pictures of it. There'll be hundreds of people in a, in a high school gym or something like that with cots close to each other, making sure people have a safe and secure place to sleep. Um, that's not going to work in a coven environment. So, uh, it folks are at a temporary evacuation point waiting for information and they find out that they can't return to their home. Uh, B will have to be flexible, might have to hotel rooms, Victoria style rooms, or, uh, RV campgrounds, uh, or smaller shelters, uh, with under 50 people in them. Speaker 1: 02:30 And where are you going to be able to come up with all these additional shelter places? Speaker 2: 02:35 We had a couple hundred shelter locations and those locations would be used if we, if we have enough people evacuating that we have to pee pee groups of 50 or smaller, if we use those locations, we'll have screening protocols. When people enter the shelter have enhanced cleaning, will space cots much further than normal by mass, things like that. Uh, we also have ELL rooms identified that we can use if it's a smaller number of people evacuated. And we would direct people with hotels and half red cross. She at the hotel Speaker 1: 03:10 sounds to me like you're going to need more help more volunteers than ever in a normal year because of this pandemic. Speaker 2: 03:17 Yes, it's, it's, uh, it's a lot more, um, manpower to have multiple locations to serve people when, when you're show up, bring them. Um, it does take our whole team before incredible long years here in San Diego County, we have over 2000 volunteers, um, and they'd been trained in advance to do sheltering and become shelter associates or shelter supervisors or managers or feeding managers. But, uh, we always welcome, uh, outstanding volunteers. Speaker 1: 03:46 And, uh, what challenges does this present in terms of getting enough food and water and other supplies to those people in shelters? Speaker 2: 03:54 It's going to be more difficult to make sure people have a, a meal, you know, going to get the roof over their head. Of course you will provide that as we always do responsibility in our mission, we normally do cafeteria style being at a large shelter. That's not going to work in this environment either. So it was more individual delivery of meals to people, either in a hotel room or nurse they're spaced out area within a smaller shelter. Speaker 1: 04:22 And what about medical personnel and equipment at shelters? It seems anyone with respiratory problems already are going to be in further trouble with heavy smoke in the air. Speaker 2: 04:30 We'll make sure that we can meet people's needs. And we have as partners in San Diego County with the County with other nonprofits and a medical facility. So we'll make sure we can meet every individual's needs on what might be the worst day of their life. Speaker 1: 04:47 And we've had extensive publicity of course, about the problems getting personal protective equipment masks and gowns and gloves ventilators during this pen dynamic generally, how are we stocked now? Has the red cross been securing PPEs on your own? Speaker 2: 05:01 Uh, we have a supply of DPE that we use for our disaster responders, that man, that staff the shelters and provide seating services. And we have, we have those available that adequate PP. Speaker 1: 05:14 And what about testing? Will shelters have testing capacity for the coronavirus? Speaker 2: 05:18 We don't anticipate testing at the shelters. We would be referring, uh, individuals who are nurse. So we keep someone right in the County emergency operations center. We have a representative there during a disaster like this and any kind of, uh, special needs like that, or advanced protocols and lean on our partners and escorted can send. Speaker 1: 05:38 Now it sounds like this will add up to more costs for the red cross. Is that right? How are you going to pay for all of this? Speaker 2: 05:43 Well, certainly be more costly. Normally when we provide a shelter for folks it's through a community partner and it's a available most at no cost, but hotel rooms cost thousands and thousands more for us running a June fundraising campaign and people can help the red cross.org. Of course, when disaster strikes, we'll also make an appeal to me to help them or helping their neighbors. Speaker 1: 06:07 And I imagine you're working with the County and other agencies to coordinate all this with, with an eye toward the pandemic and the challenges we're talking about. Speaker 2: 06:15 We are working very closely with our partners at the County. San Diego is a, is a excellent, uh, County for cooperation and leadership that the County office of emergency services does a terrific job planning for disasters ranked together partners. And we all work together very well. Speaker 1: 06:31 And let's turn to a preparations by individuals. What does the red cross recommend? We all do to prepare in the event, our homes are threatened by a wildfire. Speaker 2: 06:39 Well, really need to be prepared for wildfire. I mean, we're in an at risk area and we recommend people have a plan. So that starts with just knowing where you're gonna meet your family members. If you have a home fire or broader wildfire approaching your home, people should also have a kit. They should have to get to get through the next few days, water food, some clothing, uh, other supplies, flashlights, other, other items like that, and then stay informed by listening to the news and, uh, and make sure you know where the threat is. Speaker 1: 07:10 What's the website where listeners can go to get more information about preparing for a possible wildfire. Speaker 2: 07:16 There's more information available at prepared San Diego dot board about our resources there. And it's a great site. Speaker 1: 07:24 Well, I've been speaking with Sean Mahoney, regional chief executive officer for the American red cross Southern California region. Thanks very much, Sean. Speaker 2: 07:32 Thank you, Mark. Appreciate it. Speaker 3: 07:45 [inaudible].