As we head into the rainy season it’s always good time to do some advance preparations for your home or business. Recent earthquakes and the PG&E power shutoff also remind us that we live in an area where disaster preparation is a constant. Let’s look at some of the ways you can be sure your home or business is prepared for an emergency situation.
A few years ago our County experienced significant storm damage (damage that we are still working to repair). If we have a similar winter we can expect additional flooding, mudslides, road damage and downed trees. As we saw, this means that some neighborhoods might have limited access or even be cut off from access for a period of time. What can you do to prepare and what is the County doing ahead of the winter to get ready?
In advance of the season Public Works has been cleaning culverts, mowing and clearing brush in an attempt to reduce flooding potential. They are encouraging the community to call them at 454-2160 if you know of any culverts that need inspection or repair or brush that needs to be cleared.
Residents can also download the free County mobile app My Santa Cruz County via the County’s website at santacruzcounty.us to report non-emergency issues. Additionally, Public Works is also asking that residents rake (if it’s safe) and clean storm drains to help prevent flooding. This simple task can significantly improve drainage. Road hazards can always be reported via the 24-hour Public Works dispatch number at 477-3999 (option 1).
You can visit the County’s winter prep resource page: www.santacruzcounty.us/elnino — while it was originally created for a previous El Nino season it has been updated and provides a wealth of information on what to do before, during and after a storm. It provides checklists on what to have on hand at your home, contact numbers and more.
If you believe that a tree has the potential to impact a power line PG&E is offering to have their arborists inspect trees and perform maintenance if needed. You can call them at 1-800-743-5000. Residents can also sign up for mobile alerts regarding power outages directly from their website. PG&E has also notified state regulators they expect to continue their power shutoffs.
These shutoffs were remarkably disruptive and impacted vulnerable populations in significant ways. While the County has been working with the state CPUC to encourage a stronger role in these shutoffs, we do want to ensure that you prepare for these shutoffs as you would for any other power loss due to storms or another natural disaster.
Our local 911 center suggests residents sign up for mobile alerts (called Code Red) from their website www.scr911.org. These alerts will be used for evacuations, boil-water notices and other critical information.
What other things can you do to prepare your home or business?
According to FEMA and the Red Cross, here are some tips:
- Build an emergency kit with water, non-perishable food, flashlight, batteries, radio, and baby items and medicines (if needed) to last a few days
- Keep your pets indoors if possible during heavy rain events
- Have a plan that your family is familiar with — in case you are unable to get home due to road hazards or need to shelter in place for multiple days ensure that your family knows how to communicate and possibly a back up location for meeting or lodging. This would be relevant during major storm events or earthquakes or other natural disasters.
- In advance of rains, clear drains, rain gutters and downspouts of debris
- If you have drainage issues around your home consider having them inspected and addressed and inspect your roof for leaks
- Get flood insurance. If you already have it, check your policy to make sure you have enough coverage
- Make copies of all your important documents and make sure the originals are stored safely somewhere outside of your home
- Take photos of your possessions (furniture, collectibles, electronics) in case you need them for an insurance claim
- Learn how to shut off gas valves, bolt and brace water heaters, install strong latches on cabinets and don’t hang heavy items (like a picture or mirror) near beds or couches where people sleep or sit.
- Check at your workplace and your children’s schools to learn about their emergency plans for an earthquake or other natural disaster
As always, I’d love to hear your thoughts. Please feel free to visit me during my open office hours in Aptos, Corralitos, Watsonville or Seascape or call me at 454-2200 if I can be of any help to you.