Disaster Preparedness

We all know disaster can strike at any time.  Thankfully most of us will live entire lives without being affected by a major disaster.  However, no one is immune, and everyone should be prepared for the unthinkable.

In the event of the unthinkable, is your family prepared?  If you’re away from home when disaster strikes, will you have a degree of peace of mind, knowing your family is prepared and knows what to do?

Why Preparedness is Essential

Local government and relief agencies work hard to prepare for major disasters. However, despite their best efforts, there will be chaos for at least the first 24-48 hours after any major disaster.

Hurricane Katrina was one of the worst disasters in American history.  We will never experience a hurricane, but we are likely to experience “The Big One,” the devastating earthquake we know will arrive some day.  In New Orleans, everyone knew Hurricane Katrina was coming, so they could prepare and/or evacuate.  There will be no forewarning of The Big One.

The Rodgers Creek Fault, which runs right through Santa Rosa and Windsor, is cited as the most likely source of a 7.0 magnitude, or greater, quake between now and 2035.  When The Big One comes, we will be without forewarning and we will be at its epicenter..

Disaster Response—The Cold, Hard Facts

Consider the reality of emergency response in Santa Rosa and Windsor following a major, widely destructive earthquake.

  • Windsor Fire Protection District is responsible for 27,000 people in Windsor and 5,000 people in the surrounding unincorporated area.

  • Rincon Valley Fire serves 27,000 people spread over three widely separated areas:  Rincon Valley, Larkfield/Wikiup, and Bellevue.

  • Windsor Fire has four firefighters on duty each day; Rincon Valley has six.

  • There are only 20 active ambulances in all of Sonoma County: one is assigned to Windsor; three (one to each area) are assigned to Rincon Valley Fire.

  • The on-duty battalion chief—who directs firefighter and rescue operations—will be responsible for 55,000 people and 160 square miles, because his responsibility will include Windsor and Rincon Valley Fire districts.

  • A 7.0 earthquake is projected to do extensive damage to all County freeways and highways, causing nearly 400 complete road closures.

  • Freeway overpasses will collapse.

  • Neighboring communities will also sustain severe damage.

  • 9-1-1 will be swamped.

  • In spite of everyone’s best efforts, there will be far less than adequate emergency assistance available to most of the population for 2 or 3 days, maybe longer.

 What Can I Do?

If you are prepared for The Big One, you are prepared for anything.  While government emergency preparedness agencies recommend you be prepared to be completely self-sufficient for three days, we strongly recommend you be prepared to be completely self sufficient for at least 7 days.

Where do I begin?

  • The most important disaster preparedness step is make a plan.

  • Review the plan once a year; update as necessary.

  • Choose a family member/friend in another area/state to serve as an information source for you and your family: everyone calls there to get/leave information when they can’t directly contact any other family members.

  • Put together survival kits and make sure everyone knows where they are kept.

  • Carry some basic survival items in your car: water, food, flashlights, bandages, Mylar survival blankets, etc.

  • After an earthquake, the floor is likely to be littered with broken glass.  Put a spare pair of shoes and a flashlight—basic necessities should the earthquake occur in the middle of the night—in a plastic grocery bag and tie it to the headboard of each family member’s bed.

  • Remember that without electricity there is no gasoline, no ATM machine, no way to buy groceries, no way to charge your cordless phone battery

  • Keep an emergency supply of cash on hand.

  • Have an old fashioned landline telephone: it will work if the electricity is out. 

  • Keep the gas tank in your car at least half full at all times.

These are just a few suggestions. Visit any of the following excellent resources for more information:

“No matter how much the County, Fire Department, Police Department, and the Town of Windsor plan, no matter how much we prepare, our resources will be completely overwhelmed immediately following a major disaster,” Fire Marshal Matt Gustafson warns.  “We strongly urge everyone to take disaster preparedness seriously, for peace of mind now and in the event of a disaster.”