Telephone Alerts Don't Work in Emergencies
By Ernie Salomon
I am not a disaster expert, but I do know that the telephone-based systems employed by cities in Sonoma and Napa counties underscored my often quoted belief that the first thing to go in wars, emergencies, and disasters is communication. In the northern fires, it failed again!
Think Sept. 11th, Katrina down to all the following disasters we have had in our country. I am convinced that people died in the ongoing fires up north because they didn't get the word to evacuate. Others had to run a fire gauntlet in their cars. Cell phone towers and land lines were destroyed by the fire. Until satellite telephones are the norm, cell towers will continue to be burned to the ground just when they are needed and land-based phone lines will always be at risk.
We know several people in the Santa Rosa area and at least one family lost their home, others had to evacuate and at least one is still on the edge. The biggest complaints that they have expressed are the lack of warning and the ensuing traffic jams that panicked many. It took over three hours to make a trip that was normally 20-30 minutes!!!
I propose that we take a hard look for the use of sirens in our populated areas to signal evacuation for fires. They can be made fail-safe by backup batteries and can be placed in strategic areas.
As I said on my recent program with Yolanda McGlinchey, SB City Emergency Services Manager, (who is knowledgeable) I am still convinced that a majority of our residents don't have a clue about what to do in case of a fire or earthquake as to preparedness especially as to evacuation routes in the event of fire. NADA!
Unless those of you in authority can convince me otherwise, we have a long way to go!