Demonstration of water drop by aerial helicopter firefighters on April 28.
The scenario was worst case: a wind-driven fire starting at dirt Mulholland, following a path through the heart of Topanga all the way to the coast and possibly, as it did in the 1993 fire, turn and come back into Topanga.
The message was Go! Get out and be safe.
In the run-up to the 2012 all-Canyon evacuation drill the most extensive emergency-response exercise since the drill began in earnest four years ago the week of April 23 was designated Safety Week when residents received a packet with instructions on the type of drill and opportunities to check their emergency plan, their vehicles and meet participating representatives. A special drill was scheduled for Topanga Elementary Charter School.
On Monday, April 23, Horse Trailer Inspections were conducted by the CHP at Pine Tree Circle from noon to sundown.
On Tuesday, April 24, from 4:30 to 8 p.m., residents could meet Topanga Emergency Management Task Force members responsible for Topanga emergency planning local firefighters, CHP officers and Sheriffs Deputies; representatives from Supervisor Zev Yaroslavskys Third District, the American Red Cross and other county agencies; and volunteers from Topanga community groups, T-CEP, Topanga Town Council, Topanga CERT, Topanga Arson Watch and the Equine Response Team.
Fire Safety For Kids
Wednesday, April 25, was the most exciting day for Topanga Elementary School students when the Los Angeles County Fire Departments Topanga Station 69, a water-dropping helicopter and Station 125 Hook and Ladder showed up.
The reason we do this every year is because you always have new parents and children, and to reinforce that the school is a safe place to shelter in case of wildland fire, said Susan Nissman, Sr. Deputy to Supervisor Yaroslavsky.
PHOTO BY SUSAN NISSMAN
Station 125 Hook and Ladder. They went alllllll the way up!
We make a point of bringing trucks and firefighters to demonstrate foam/spray on the building up at the playground. The copter did a water drop and this year, the kids got an extra treat of seeing the ladder go allllllll the way up! The school is incredibly cooperative and supportive, Nissman added.
As exciting as it was, it was designed to educate children and teachers on how the Fire Department will respond during school hours.
In a real emergency, firefighters and equipment will be deployed at the school and children will be sheltered in place, and protected until it is safe for parents to come and pick them up.
Principal Nicole Sheard commented on how much she values the collaboration with L.A. County to simulate what would happen at the school in an actual emergency situation.
It is crucial for the students to be aware of what to do in the event of an emergency, she said. Besides being entertained by the fire trucks, firemen and the helicopter dropping water, a drill like this enables them to know that they are safe and will be protected if there were ever a real emergency.
At 8 a.m., all participating responders met at the Incident Command Post (ICP) at King Gillette Ranch for a briefing before deploying for their field assignments.
PHOTO BY JOEL DOUGLAS
L.A. County Fire Department Battalion Chief and Deputy Incident Commander for the exercise Anthony Williams at the morning briefing.
There are no safe zones in the wildland urban interface, said L.A. County Fire Department Battalion Chief and Deputy Incident Commander for the exercise, Anthony Williams. The CSAs are not a long-term solution; as soon as you can get out, you should get out.
The time to do this is during a non-emergency, not when an actual fire is bearing down on the Canyon, admonished Maria Grycan, Los Angeles County Fire Department, Community Services Representative and drill coordinator.
The parking lot was filled with mobile units that would track the fire, the location of all field responders and provide interagency communications.
PHOTO BY JOEL DOUGLAS
The Sheriff’s mobile trailer, affectionately know as the “Green Hulk,” outsized them all. Inside were computers with acronyms like CWIRT (Countywide Integrated Radio System) and OARRS (Operational Area Response and Recovery System).
The Sheriffs mobile trailer, affectionately know as the Green Hulk, outsized them all. Inside were computers with acronyms like CWIRT (Countywide Integrated Radio System) and OARRS (Operational Area Response and Recovery System), an internet radio system that provides situational awareness information so ICP can get up-to-date information.
"Its a far cry from the old system of walkie-talkies," said Ken Kondo, Public Information Officer for the Office of Emergency Management.
By 9:30 a.m., Sheriffs, firefighters, LAPD officers and local volunteer team leaders had briefed their members on their assignments and then it was Go!
At 10 a.m., Alert LA, the countys mass notification system, robo-called residents in the first zones to be evacuated. Follow-up Alert LA calls gradually went out as more zones were rolled into the evacuation.
PHOTO BY JOEL DOUGLAS
Maria Grycan,Los Angeles County Fire Department, Community Services Representative and drill coordinator was ecstatic over participation results.
Those who subscribed to the cell phone emergency notification service (text Evacuation" to 888777) receive important text messages and updates in an emergency. Topangans could also follow the drill on Facebook at facebook.com/lacountyfire7 or on Twitter @LACoFd_DivVII.
Firefighters on patrol were also instructed to knock on doors and engage residents to speak with them about evacuating and ask whether or not they would evacuate in a real fire.
People were instructed to leave northbound via Topanga Canyon Blvd. and Old Topanga Road and go to Taft High School where they would register at the American Red Cross center in the gymnasium. T-CEP and Topanga Animal Rescue were among local volunteer organizations to answer questions and inform people of their role in the emergency preparedness.
Those instructed to leave southbound went to Palisades High School, where another Red Cross center was set up.
Those who would be trailering horses or other large animals were asked to use the drill as practice for inspecting their trailers, hooking them up and evacuating without the animals to Pierce College.
Evacuation, fire officials insist, is the best choice but not the only one. In the event that residents no longer have a safe route out of the Canyon, they are advised to go to their closest CSA and to memorize the locations of all nine of them in case they are not leaving from their homes and need refuge.
At noon, another Alert LA call went out to warn residents that fire conditions may prevent them from evacuating the Canyon completely and they should now proceed to their closest CSA to seek temporary refuge.
In addition to the CSAs, there are also Temporary Refuge Areas (TRAs), a name changed from Neighborhood Safety Areas (NSA), that may provide some protection for lack of a safer place to go.
As further incentive for people to go to Red Cross centers, organizers of the drill provided free gifts of restaurant discounts and survival products, as well as drawings for some awesome prizes, such as dinner for four at Fire Station 69; a four-person, three-day survival kit duffel bag; lunch for four at Fire Station 110 including a tour of the Marina aboard boat 110; and luxury suite tickets to an Angels baseball game.
PHOTO BY STACY SLEDGE
Evacuation Topanga Style!
By 10:45 a.m., fire officials were announcing the numbers: 109 people checked in at Taft; 10 at Palisades High School; 20 people showed up at CSA 1A/Viewridge; two at Mill Creek CSA 2B; 24 at the Community House, CSA 4A; 8 at CSA 6A/Robinson Ranch; three at CSA 7B/Pine Tree Circle; and one person at CSA 9A/Tuna Water Tank.
By 11:15 a.m., a total of 500 people had checked in and by 12:15 the count had climbed to 993.
By end of the drill, participation rose to the final total of 1,120 residents and 200 animals.
Stacy Sledge, president of the Topanga Town Council, was signing peo