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Topanga Prepares to Evacuate on April 28
April 19, 2012 - By Annemarie Donkin
PHOTO BY MARTIN NATE RAWNER
View of the 1993 Old Topanga Wildfire from Santa Monica. Topangans will practice a full canyon evacuation drill in real time on April 28 between 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
With the theme of Ready, Set, Go!, Topanga will conduct an all-canyon fire drill on April 28 when residents will drive out of the Canyon to Red Cross Evacuation Centers at Taft or Palisades High Schools.
To prepare for a wildfire emergency, Topangans will participate in an unprecedented drill on Saturday, April 28, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. as County agencies conduct its annual full-canyon evacuation exercise involving all nine tactical zones based on the Topanga Disaster Survival Guide.
The mock scenario will again be a wind-driven fire blocking the north end of the Canyon resulting in the need to evacuate all residents.
For this exercise, we will practice a unified command between the LA County Fire Department and the LA County Sheriffs Department, said Maria Grycan, Community Services Representative who coordinated the drill.
Prior to the exercise, all Topanga residents will be contacted by mail during the upcoming Topanga Safety Week.
All residents who have registered phone numbers will also receive calls on the day of the drill informing them of the evacuation procedures.
On the day of the drill, residents to the north will be the first zones to be instructed to drive out of the Canyon to Taft High School where they will receive free gifts and enter a prize drawing.
Residents to the south will evacuate to Palisades High School where they will check in, receive their gifts and enter a prize drawing.
Evacuating with Animals
Anyone in the Canyon with horses is encouraged to hook up an empty horse trailer (please do NOT bring your horse) and practice evacuating to Pierce College in Woodland Hills where they will check in with members of the Equine Response Team and the Los Angeles County Department of Animal Control.
While at Pierce, large animal owners will be able to obtain vital information to create an effective emergency evacuation and/or survival plan for their horses.
Susan Clark of Topanga Animal Rescue will have a table at both Taft High School and Palisades High with information on evacuating with small animals, dogs, cats, rabbits, etc. As with large animals, do NOT bring your pets, but do check in for the latest information regarding a plan for your pets.
Just as you have an emergency plan for your human family, Clark says, Be your pets best friend and have a plan for them as well.
The Command Post will be staged outside of the Canyon at King Gillette Ranch on Mulholland HIghway. The Incident Commander will be Assistant Fire Chief Anthony M. Whittle.
For the drill, Pat Mac Neil of the Topanga Coalition for Emergency Preparedness (T-CEP) said its members will also evacuate and be stationed at King Gillette Ranch and activate the telephone hotline, (310) 455-3000, with real-time information updated every fifteen minutes.
Once again, the exercise will involve 14 county, city and local agencies, in a massive effort of coordination among the Third County Supervisorial District Office; the Los Angeles County Fire Department; the Lost Hills Sheriffs Station and Sheriffs EOB; County Animal Care & Control; The Equine Response Team; County Office of Emergency Management; The California Highway Patrol; the L.A.P.D. Topanga Division; T-CEP (Topanga Coalition for Emergency Preparedness); Arson Watch; Community Emergency Response Team (CERT); Neighborhood Networks; the Red Cross; and the Topanga Town Council.
CSA Backup Only!
Additionally, each of the nine-designated Community Survival Areas (CSAs) will serve only as back-up areas for those who did not evacuate the Canyon and when it is determined that the fire has reached a point where evacuation is no longer possible. While there, they will be assisted by CERT volunteers to determine how many from each area responded.
Please note, that in an actual fire emergency, CERT members will evacuate like everyone else and there will be no responders or resources at these areas.
Although we are practicing a complete evacuation of the Canyon during this drill, Grycan said, residents are encouraged to pay attention to where they are at any given time and carry a Zone Map of the Canyon, that should be kept available in their cars at all times.
In the event of a real wildland fire, it is feasible that gridlock will prevent complete evacuations and you may be diverted to your closest CSA. Residents should know the locations of all nine CSAs in the Canyon, Grycan said.
County officials emphasize that a full canyon evacuation is vital for the survival of all residents.
There are no safe zones in the urban interface, said L.A. County Fire Department Battalion Chief Anthony Williams, who will be the Deputy Incident Commander for the exercise. The CSAs are not a long-term solution; as soon as you can get out, you should get out.
Real Time Updates
During the drill, Topanga residents will be updated on ALERT-LA phone lines. Calls from ALERT-LA will continue throughout the duration of the drill from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Additionally, KNX (AM 1070) will provide real-time updates on the fires during the evacuation.
Residents can also subscribe to the cell phone emergency notification service text messaging at EVACUATION to 888777. Once you subscribe, important text messages will be sent to your cell phone during the Drill from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. normal text rates apply.
Ready, Set, Go!
Taking a few moments out of your day to experience leaving the Canyon under this wildfire scenario is a critically important step for you and your familys survival, said Susan Nissman, Senior Deputy with Supervisor Yaroslavskys office and lead coordinator for the Topanga Emergency Management Task Force.
Overall, the County and the L.A. County Fire Department hope that everyone participates on Saturday and/or, at least creates an emergency disaster plan for the future.
This drill prepares residents of Topanga to evacuate without jeopardy to themselves or their neighborhoods, Yaroslavsky said after the 2011 drill. As the late coach John Wooden once said, Practice doesn't make perfect; perfect practice makes perfect."