By Gregg Fishman.
With wildfires burning across California, and people in several counties either sifting through the ashes, or waiting and praying in an evacuation center, the recent Napa Valley Earthquake has faded from nightly newscasts. But the people in Napa and Solano County are still dealing with the aftermath, and will be for some time. In their experience, there are lessons to be learned.
CSAC has produced a four-part video series that details how Napa and Solano responded to the earthquake. Counties are big on emergency preparedness, so when the ground shook, the bricks fell, and whole buildings became unsafe, the plans, procedures and people in Napa and Solano were tested. By and large, they not only passed the test, they aced it.
In producing this series of videos, we talked to county staff and elected officials, who, as soon as they were sure their own families and homes had survived, left home to go to work on the response and recovery. Napa County Probation Chief Mary Butler became the Emergency Operations Director for the first 12 hours or so. Emergency response requires the ability to shift focus, reprioritize and collaborate.
In these videos you’ll hear, and see, how Napa County was able to work with their emergency plan to get through the first critical 24 hours, and work with their neighbors, the state and FEMA to transition from response, to recovery. Napa County not only had to deal with the immediate needs of its people after the quake, they also had to triage their own buildings, communicate with their employees and make sure they could keep meeting critical needs—like safely housing jail inmates.
They did it with thoughtful, deliberative action, and a little help from their friends. Now, they are in the process of “getting back to normal” even though many of their buildings and facilities won’t be repaired for many months. Napa and Solano’s situation is not universal, but the planning, training and drilling they have done to prepare and the way they responded do hold universal lessons.
Emergencies are different. Fires, floods, earthquakes, civil unrest or public health threats all require counties to respond, but in different ways, under different time frames and with different levels of urgency. The fires burning right now in Siskiyou, El Dorado, Riverside and other counties are reminders that the next emergency might be very close to home. We can look to Napa and Solano Counties for examples of how to prepare, respond and recover.