Mitigating for Wildfires: A California Community’s Response to Wildfires

What we’re talking about

Sonoma County California has been impacted by numerous weather-related disasters in the last few years — from a historic drought to devastating wildfires in three of the last four years. In between the county experienced flooding and mudslides. These events have changed how Sonoma County prepares for disasters by improving mitigation efforts, expanding community outreach programs, increasing funding for emergency management, and providing multiple sources to alert the public of threats. Sonoma County District 4 Supervisor, James Gore shares how the county improved response to recent wildfires in 2020 as it continues to build community resilience.

Key Takeaways

  • Mitigating for disasters is key to ensuring communities can survive and recover from events including: How do you pre-defeat fires, How do you address sea level rise, etc.
  • The Tubbs and Sonoma Complex fires of 2017 were a wake-up call for Sonoma County. It identified the need to better alert and for notification systems to warn the public of potential threats. It was resulted in changes to how Sonoma County prepares including additional funding for its emergency management program, development of public education campaigns, and establishing mitigation programs to prevent harsh impacts from disasters.
  • Climate factors have impacted how wildfires are fueled in California including historic droughts, and changes in wind patterns.
  • Significant improvements were made to expand communication systems across the county to enhance alert and warning capabilities.
  • Community Resilience needs support from both elected officials and the emergency management community in order to be successful.
  • Emergency Operations Centers need to operate as a preparedness center and not as a “bunker.”
  • Dedicated funding to support mitigation and preparedness efforts is essential.
  • Reviewing evacuation procedures and exercising for potential disasters is crucial to being ready for the next disaster.
  • It’s crucial for communities to routinely test their early warning and notification systems on a regular basis.

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