A Call to Action: Disaster preparedness forum

by Carol Leish

This important forum, ‘A Call to Action,’ was presented on February 20, by the Ventura Council For Seniors. It was very timely after the Thomas Fire in Ventura and then the mudslides in Montecito.

Chief David Endaya, of the Ventura Fire Department, moderated the forum. He said that the evacuation of 27,000 people in Ventura within 90 minutes on the evening of December 4, 2017 saved lives.

Assistant Chief Andy Ortega, Ventura County Fire Department, Retired, gave a moving personal story of coping with the loss of his home, and through that loss, becoming more resilient. He commended the fact that neighbors were helping other neighbors during this trying situation of the fire. He also commended the 600 city workers and first responders who helped tremendously. He focused on being able to rebuild together and to be able to come out on the other side of the disaster by appreciating what he and his family does have.

“It’s important to stay aware,” according to Assistant Chief Ortega. “Being prepared is vital, in order to be: ready to act; set to act; and, being able to go (taking the action).” He also stressed the vital importance of evacuating, in order to save lives, during both voluntary and mandatory evacuations. He said that, sadly, loss of life occurred during the mudslides in Montecito, and not during the fire in Ventura, because those who were given a ‘voluntary’ evacuation notice in Montecito didn’t necessarily leave.

The panel discussion, with Captain Steven Lazenby, Santa Paula Fire Department, Retired; CERT Trainer; Gracie Huerta, Co-Founder, LISTOS Disaster Preparedness; and, Laura Hernandez, Emergency Management Professional reemphasized the importance of being prepared, along with what Assistant Chief Ortega had already said.

These important tips included the importance of having a magnetic, ‘File of Life,’ on your refrigerator, that has medical information about the family. Realizing the importance of having a gallon of water a day for each person in the household for seven days. Having important documents (or copies of them) all in one folder. This includes: social security cards; Drivers Licenses; Passports; medical records; insurance information; bank records; and, rental and/or mortgage information. Also, remembering to have pet care items, such as: identification; immunization records; carrier or cage; muzzle and leash; and, pet food.

Other things to keep in mind before a disaster occurs, be it a fire or an earthquake, for example, are; having a phone number of a contact friend or family member outside of the (805) area code; packing up pictures and irreplaceable memorabilia; having personal computers with information on hard drive and disks; and, having plastic (credit cards, ATM cards) and cash.

A special thank you to, Suz Montgomery, who makes sure that, ‘Seniors are working for the benefit of seniors,’ which is a motto of the Ventura Council For Seniors, which she is the chair of. And, another special thank you to, the Downtown Ventura Rotary, for having a free barbeque lunch, after the forum.

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