Recommendations regarding how to fireproof homes, how to prepare for evacuation, what to take in such an event, and how to sign up for CodeRED alert messages were discussed by a variety of speakers from several different agencies during the meeting, which was presented by Dunsmuir’s Disaster Planning Advisory Committee and the Dunsmuir-Castella Fire Department.

Residents were urged to take fire safety into their own hands in numerous ways Thursday during a Dunsmuir workshop on how to prepare for wildfire-related emergencies.

Recommendations regarding how to fireproof homes, how to prepare for evacuation, what to take in such an event, and how to sign up for CodeRED alert messages were discussed by a variety of speakers from several different agencies during the meeting, which was presented by Dunsmuir’s Disaster Planning Advisory Committee and the Dunsmuir-Castella Fire Department.

Those agencies included Dunsmuir-Castella Fire District, CAL FIRE, the U.S. Forest Service, the Siskyiou County Sheriff’s Office, Siskiyou County Office of Emergency Services, California Highway Patrol, Caltrans, Dignity Health, the City of Dunsmuir, Pacific Power, and J.F. Shea Construction, which is performing the work on Interstate 5 under a contract with Caltrans.

Siskiyou County Public Health, the county’s Fire Safe Council, Farmer’s Insurance, and Dunsmuir Neighborhood Watch each had resource tables at the event, where they provided educational handouts such as emergency supply kit lists, emergency preparedness guides, wildfire preparedness checklists, and personal wildfire action plan booklets, as well as literature from California Fire Safe Council on recommendations for creating defensible space and how to harden homes to better withstand wildfires.

The Sheriff’s Office provided Code Red information sheets, along with their recommended “Helpful Hints for Evacuation” and printouts of the Dunsmuir/Mott Evacuation Plan, which tells which exit routes each section of town would utilize in the event of evacuation.

Dunsmuir-Castella Fire Chief Dan Padilla said that more than 600,000 acres burned in the State of California last year, whereas this year only 38,610 acres have burned. Padilla attributed this to the significant snowfall the county had last winter, which helped keep both live fuels and dead fuels moist longer.

Padilla cited that there were as many as 4,000 lightning strikes in northern California last month, but with minimal resulting fire incidents. Nevertheless, Padilla warned that we are “still above normal for fire potential for the remainder of this year,” pointing out that the “Redding area has a lot of cured fuel” which could be a fire hazard.

During the question and answer session later in the meeting, Padilla encouraged everyone to take responsibility for their own property and to make it as “fire safe” as possible. He also suggested looking into fire-resistant vegetation options when selecting plants for landscaping.

Pacific Power’s regional business manager Monte Mendenhall spoke about Pacific Power’s wildfire mitigation program. Mendenhall said the company has increased its clearances and is “putting a tremendous amount of resources into mitigation.” He said the mitigation program is about “sectionalization and de-energization.”

Mendenhall showed maps of the five PDZs (Proactive De-energization Zones) in Siskiyou County: Dunsmuir, Happy Camp, Mount Shasta, Snowbrush, and Weed.

After the meeting, Mendenhall explained that PDZs are areas which, if enough potential fire risks are in effect, the entire zone could be proactively de-energized to mitigate a possible wildfire disaster. In other words, Pacific Power could shut off the power in an entire zone if circumstances warranted it.

Mendenhall told meeting-goers that Pacific Power would utilize a notification system to alert them if their PDZ was going to be de-energized in the event of an emergency. He advised everyone to go to Pacific Power’s website to update their information as to how they want to be notified in the event of a possible PSPS (Public Safety Power Shut-off.) For individuals who do not have access to a computer, Mendenhall said they could call 1-888-221-7070.

CAL FIRE Information Officer Suzi Brady taught everyone about what she calls the “Six Ps” of evacuation preparedness: People and pets, papers, prescriptions, pictures, personal computer or hard drives, and plastic.

Brady elaborated by saying the “Six Ps” are the most critical items to remember to pack when preparing for an evacuation in the event of any kind of emergency.

Papers would include important documents such as birth certificates and the deed to your house. Prescriptions, Brady said, are not limited to medicines, but would also include other prescription items, such as eyeglasses and contact lenses. By plastic, Brady was referring to credit and debit cards. She added a bonus seventh “P:” Plan.

“It’s never too early to plan. So let’s plan today,” Brady said.

Siskiyou Office of Emergency Services Deputy Director Jasen Vela gave a brief informational message about CodeRED, which is a reverse 911 system by which people can be notified if there is an immediate emergency in their area.

Vela explained that there are three ways of receiving CodeRED alerts: text message, phone call, and email. Vela recommended signing up for all methods of notification.

Vela said people who haven’t yet signed up for the CodeRED service can do so online at www.co.siskiyou.ca.us. You can also do so by calling (530) 841-2155.

Vela added that even with CodeRED notification, if an Incident Commander made the determination to evacuate a certain area, Sheriff’s deputies would be going door to door to get the word out. Vela recommended being in good communication with your neighbors and suggested that people could go online to Ready.gov to find planned evacuation checklists.

Vela encouraged people to take personal responsibility, saying, “Don’t wait for the government to tell you to leave. If you feel unsafe, go.”

Vela also addressed the topic of “AFNs” which is a public safety term that stands for people with “Access and Functional Needs.” According to information on a Homeland Security and Emergency Management website published by the State of Michigan, individuals with Access and Functional Needs would include people who are disabled, elderly, children, non English-speaking, or transportation-disadvantaged.

Vela said in the event of a public emergency, AFN people would need to evacuate during the evacuation warning phase – before an evacuation order.

To be put on the AFN list, Vela said to go to the Siskiyou County Office of Emergency Services website. That way, county OES would know who might need help in the event of an emergency. The Dunsmuir Community Resource Center also has forms to fill out to be put on the AFN list.

Brian Shirley, a respiratory therapist at Dignity Health and a member of the Disaster Planning Advisory Committee, emphasized the necessity of making a plan. He said that in his 15 years as an emergency responder, “There’s no consistency among emergency situations.”

Shirley advised people need to ask themselves how they can take care of themselves for at least a week in the event of an emergency.

Shirley recommended having two weeks of emergency medical provisions on hand. The people that especially need to be taking extra precautionary measures are the disabled and elderly, and people who don’t have a vehicle.

“If you’re elderly, or don’t have a vehicle, come up with a plan now,” Shirley said.

“I want to compliment the (Dunsmuir) City leadership, this committee, and Lynda (Scheben, DPAC Chair), for putting this event together,” said Siskiyou County Sheriff Jon Lopey, who pointed out that Mt. Shasta is the second most active volcano on the Cascade Ridge.

Lopey also reminded everyone about the recent wildfire incidents of the Hirz and Delta Fires moving up the canyon. Lopey urged everyone to assemble an emergency supply kit.

Lopey emphasized the importance of being enrolled in the CodeRED emergency notification system.

He described how this area is different from Paradise, because Siskiyou County has “a smaller population, a great network of freeways, great networking with Caltrans, and outstanding support from CHP and Caltrans.”

Lopey assured those assembled that last year when wildfires were threatening the city, “We had a plan to shut down southbound traffic from Ashland and northbound traffic from Redding to facilitate your evacuation.”

Caltrans Public Information Officer Lupita Franco said one of the tools that empowered people during the Carr Fire was Facebook – not Twitter ... Facebook has that feature that you can say, ‘I am safe,’ or ‘I need help.’”

“I know some of you don’t trust social media, but ... Facebook was incredibly helpful during the Carr Fire,” said Franco.

There was a concern brought forward regarding the limited radio reception in Dunsmuir, and being able to access public emergency communications once a CodeRED was activated. In response to this issue, everyone was encouraged to get a battery-operated radio for use in the event of an emergency.

The entire meeting, which was officiated by DPAC chair Lynda Scheben, was filmed by Siskiyou Media Council and can be viewed by going to the Siskiyou Media Council website: www.siskiyoumediacouncil.org.