Response to City-Proposed Fire Ordinance

Wow. It's on the public to model their evacuation times and create their own maps. Stunning. Share it with your friends and loved ones. Thanks for being a great neighbor! You can call or write City Council today and ask them to pass the CET-Public & Life Safety Ordinance we proposed 6 months ago - a sample letter is on our website. 

Our initial reponse to the very light City-proposed ordinance is that it's very flimsy, offers few specifics, does not mandate advanced evacuation modeling (Zonehaven is a real time management system), does not mandate reporting of clearance times to the public, does not mandate evacuation maps be reported to the public and does not mandate evacuation modeling for future development.  The CET-Public & Life Safety Ordinance we proposed in November of 2021 (half a year ago) does.  That ordinance has yet to be discussed by our leadership -- they just side-stepped it altogether.  Here are other concerns as well as some best practices we have learned.

In an interview with The Gazette, Royal said residents can model their own evacuation times and should be aware of the risk in their own neighborhoods. "Our mantra has been individual responsibility," he said.

Our Fire Chief said before city council in Feb 2022:

"The evacuation modeling has brought up the Paradise Fire in CA. That was an extreme event. 80+ people died in that. 10 died in evacuation out of that 84. The others and dozens of them didn't evacuate, stayed in their homes. So, that's 1 issue is not evacuating. We harp on being educated, being prepared and being ready to go as soon as an evacuation is needed. The second thing that happened in that fire is that the decision makers were slow to pull the trigger on evacuation. They had about an hour to an hour and half that they should have pulled the trigger on sometime during that time, and they waited until the fire was coming into town."

1. See what the Paradise City Councilman said of "Know Your Zone" in an interview with ABC. Scroll to 4:38

2. The former Paradise Fire Chief , a type 1 Incident Commander who also managed the Dixie Fire, who is now in charge of all of CALFire for the entire region of Northern California strongly objected to the claim that Paradise acted too slowly in another hour-long call last week. He said that the fire started at 6:31am, 9 miles outside of the city. Within 40 minutes, they were evacuating 31,000 people which is a very fast response (It took us 3 days in Waldo). The fire hit the city within 42 minutes and devoured the town within an hour blocking two egress roads. Another type 1 -- these are the top dogs in fire fighting, Dan Dallas, based in Colorado who is currently the Incident Commander of the High Park Fire near Cripple Creek in Teller county and who has managed several of our biggest Colorado fires like the Boulder area Marshall Fire  (top in structure losses/property losses) and Cameron Peak/East Troublesome (top 2 in state history in acreage) as well as worked on other major ones like Tahoe endorsed our Clearance Evacuation Time - Public & Life Safety Ordinance, presented to City Council SIX months ago, noting,

 

"Mass Evacuations in the Boulder area Marshall Fire were a problem.  They got lucky on timing and everybody got out, but this is why advanced evacuation modeling to identify and correct egress problems as well as reporting clearance times and maps with safe spots identified, in advance, is a wise approach.  People should know how long it is going to take them to get out and have maps in these chaotic fires that are all too prevalent.  We have been incredibly lucky - and luck is a dangerous bet to keep playing." 

3. See a trend here? It's on the public -- evacuation modeling, clearance times, maps, mitigating road networks/intersection egress, identifying safe spots -- it's all on us. I guess it's also on our visitors and tourists to do this as well (who are at far higher risk of causing traffic problems for everyone in an emergency as they don't know the roads at all)?

We also cannot mitigate road infrastructure egress. That's the City's job. Marin County/Mill Valley does evacuation modeling using Google and just set up a FLEET account. They do mitigation egress (15 intersections and roadwork). They publish evacuation maps for the city AND for 5 neighborhood areas (see the upper right portion of the page) where the identify PRIMARY AND SECONDARY evacuation routes and the important SAFE SPACES where you go to increase odds of survival when you cannot get out due to gridlock traffic (i.e. get out of your car and run).  They have a backup communications system (on steel poles mounted in these safe spots) to handle communication infrastructure being burned with old-fashioned sirens as a last-ditch back up. While they do use Zonehaven which has some wonderful features for non-dire fires, they don't train the public to wait for their zone to be called because their leadership actually worked in the Paradise Camp Fire and knows the risks associated with training the public this way if communications go down.  They simply send alerts with maps that show the boundaries of area being evacuated.   They started a road scoring software program ($2.5 million contract) to score every road in Marin county so they can mitigate egress in advance. Our 2010 evacuation study showed we had problems then - just think what it is now, and we have no clue because we have abandoned this best practice routinely done all over the world. The Nuclear Regulatory Council uses FLEET to update their plans annually, DHS, FEMA, Army Corps of Engineers, MIT and so many cities throughout the United States for all kinds of hazards. It was developed by Hopkins Applied Physic Lab -- and it's FREE (funded by DHS). We should be doing a custom study like we did in 2010 every 5 years and use FLEET to keep those fresh and model all possible scenarios which are saved and ready to pull up in seconds....

Tell your friends and neighbors. Forward this. Ask them to write emails to City Council to pass the CET-Public & Life Safety Ordinance and implement these best practices for our city.

This shouldn't be this hard, and it's troubling that it is.