The state of California has evacuation plans for mudslides, floods, wildfires and earthquakes. But, what happens if some of those disasters happen as California is dealing with the COVID-19 outbreak?
Local and state authorities are figuring things out. According to Brian Ferguson, the spokesman of California Office of Emergency Services, they are looking at that situation, but it’s challenging.
Kim Zagaris, a long-time rescue and fire chief for the agency’s emergency services, came out of retirement to assist with the planning. He said that they are disaster prone, so people need to prepare for multiple things at multiple instances.
However, authorities deal with the issue, there seems to be a disconnection between the state and local officials. Who should develop the guidelines?
Zagaris said the local authorities must bear this responsibility. But, local emergency managers immediately threw questions back to Zagaris’ agency.
Andrea Casillas, California Emergency Services Association’s executive director, said that this is a complex issue and every jurisdiction is looking at their very own resources and policies.
Recently, California has been wet, so the wildfire threat is not that high. This week, the firefighting agency started planning the specific advice it will give people just in case there’s a wildfire threat.
This situation is complex, since electric utilities shut off power during periods of dry conditions and high winds in an effort to keep damaged appliances from sparking fires. In the previous year, shelters were arranged for vulnerable Californians, like residents who needed to power medical equipment.
This 2020, Scott McLean, CalFire spokesman, said that his department would urge people to continue following the guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in case they must evacuate. This includes using a hand sanitizer, washing hands frequently, and staying at least 6 feet apart from one another.
COVID-19 is primarily spread by sneezes or coughs, so authorities are increasingly urging people to wear masks. The virus causes moderate or mild symptoms for most individuals, like cough and fever that clear up in around two weeks. However, for some older adults and those with preexisting health issues, it can cause severe complications, including death and pneumonia.
Keeping residents apart means authorities will need more shelters to house the same amount of evacuees who, before, would have been spaced tightly in cots. More shelters means more logistical challenges and more staff in providing sanitation and food. The shelters must follow the same precautions in place as the nearby State Operations Center or California National Guard headquarters.