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Agencies and volunteers drill down on fire preparedness

Feather Publishing
6/20/2014


While most Plumas County residents were enjoying a beautiful summer Sunday, others devoted their day to make everyone safer this fire season.

The county’s office of emergency services, the Plumas National Forest and the Meadow Valley Fire Department organized the largest drill ever conducted in this county. Six months of planning went into the June 1 exercise to ensure that it would yield a comprehensive opportunity to test the county’s emergency preparedness. Federal, state and local agencies worked alongside community volunteers in a drill that stretched from Meadow Valley to the county fairgrounds.


The daylong effort revealed the county’s strengths and weaknesses in responding to a wildland fire threatening a community, but the lessons learned can be applied to any emergency. Ironically, communication proved to be the county’s biggest strength, but also its biggest weakness.

Strength came in the ability of local agencies to work together, to communicate clearly what steps to take in fighting the fire, protecting structures and evacuating citizens and animals.

Weakness came in the vulnerabilities of the infrastructure — large swaths of the county experience intermittent or no cellphone coverage and sketchy Internet access. It wasn’t always easy for those at the scene to share information. The organizations involved are developing plans to overcome that obstacle.

Another problem uncovered is the growing shift from landline phones to cellphone use. County officials learned that 38 percent of the homes in Meadow Valley and approximately a third countywide do not have landlines, which means those residents won’t receive an automatic notification during an emergency situation. During the drill, search and rescue personnel went from door to door contacting residents and checking to see who had received the emergency alert through the county’s CodeRed system.

The alert can save precious time during an emergency. Residents can do their part by registering their phone with the system by either visiting the sheriff’s department or by going online to countyofplumas.com and following the CodeRed links. Anything that we can do to protect our families and our homes and make the job easier for emergency responders is a step that we should take.

This is forecast to be a busy fire season. The Meadow Valley drill was well timed because the lessons learned will be fresh in the minds of those who will be called upon to save our communities. Some are paid for their services, but many are volunteers who give up their personal time simply because they love this area and want to protect it. We owe them a debt of gratitude, especially on a sunny Sunday afternoon.


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