Chat with the Chief: Are You Ready for Climate Emergencies?
Were you prepared for the storms last winter? Did you have a plan, an emergency kit, or communication plan? This past year has been a quiet one for local climate impacts, but they will return. Are you ready for the next power outage or localized flooding?
Cool Davis is working to help community members build confidence (and make a plan) around emergency preparedness as part of the Yolo Earth Day Pledge. We teamed up with Kristin Weivoda, Chief of Yolo County Office of Emergency Services, December 13, when she presented about severe weather and approaches to planning. The Chief took questions throughout the evening, and folks learned a great deal from the Chief and the conversation.
“Emergency preparedness means having contingencies for extreme events. It means knowing where your essentials are so you’re not scrambling last minute,” explained Cool Davis’s Campaign Coordinator, Brandon Rueda. Time is of the essence during an emergency, and planning for one makes it much easier to evacuate quickly or shelter in place if needed.
Get busy with your plan
- Make your plan now before an emergency actually happens! Signing up for emergency alerts through the county website is a great way to get started!
- Watch the video of Chief Weivoda’s presentation on the Cool Davis YouTube channel. She may have already answered some of your questions!
- Visit our Cool Davis Farmer’s Market booth this Saturday, January 6, 2024, to learn more about emergency preparedness.
- Watch the video of Chief Weivoda’s presentation on the Cool Davis YouTube channel
- Visit the Yolo County Office of Emergency Services website for information about current emergencies, evacuation zones, training, making a plan, and signing up for alerts.
- Visit the Listos California website for great educational resources in 19 languages. Some higlights are listed here:
Disaster Preparedness Guide (24 pages)
- Disaster Ready Guide in English
- Guia de Preparacion Para Desastres en Espanol
- Disaster Ready Guide in Chinese
- Disaster Ready Guide in Ukrainian
Disaster Ready Materials (in 19 languages)
- Extreme Heat Safety Flyer (in English)
- Power Outage Safety Flyer (in English)
- Wildfire Smoke Safety Flyer (in English)
- Coloring sheets for kids and adults young at heart
- Social Media Toolkit(s)
Gratitude to all our SVCC Fellows for conducting the survey and especially Cameron Kiongo for compiling and analyzing the results.
Yolo County pursuing a whole community approach
Yolo County Office of Emergency Services (OES) is following FEMA’s Whole Community Approach. “We’re spending more time involving our community to, one, make sure they’re aware of our plans, educating them and being out there more with outreach because if our community is not resilient and not prepared, our disasters are going to be a lot worse,” explained Chief Weivoda. Building community resilience is becoming increasingly important as climate change continues to get worse and extreme weather events are becoming increasingly common. According to the National Centers for Environmental Information, there are about 10 weather climate disasters a year in the United States causing billions of dollars in damage. Although we cannot prevent climate emergencies, we can help ourselves and others to be prepared for and resilient during them.
“If our community is not resilient and not prepared, our disasters are going to be a lot worse,” explained Chief Weivoda.
It is hard to prepare for an emergency if you don’t know if one is about to happen! Thankfully, Yolo County has Yolo Alert, which you can opt-in to receive Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA). Another important acronym to know is Emergency Alerting System (EAS), which sends emergency alerts to your TV or radio that interrupt the program.
The terminology that emergency alert systems use may be confusing to some, so Chief Weivoda provided us with a helpful guide:
- Watch = possible emergency
- Warning = take preparedness actions, potential threat
- Order = immediate safety threat
Plan for success
Preparing for an emergency should begin well before an emergency happens. Making a plan for an emergency will help to ensure that things go more smoothly when an emergency happens. Chief Weivoda suggested:
- Establishing a designated meeting place in case of evacuation
- Assigning specific roles to family members
- Creating an emergency contact list, including local authorities, utility companies, and medication list
- Review and update emergency plan as necessary
The last tip is especially important, since a plan can’t help much if nobody remembers what it is or if it is outdated. “I can tell you I have an emergency plan, I can tell you I have an emergency kit, but when was the last time I checked it?” said Chief Weivoda. “We all have the best of intentions, but it really does matter that we have these things because when the emergency hits, it’s too late to be thinking about this stuff.”
“I can tell you I have an emergency plan, I can tell you I have an emergency kit, but when was the last time I checked it?” said Chief Weivoda.
Make two emergency kits: “Stay Kit” and Go Bag”
A plan is a great start, but we also need to make sure that we have supplies for when an emergency happens. Chief Weivoda suggests making two emergency kits: one for a shelter in place or “Stay Kit” and one for an evacuation, aka a “Go Bag.” Both should contain basic necessities, such as non perishable food, flashlights, cash, chargers, batteries, etc. However, Weivoda emphasized that the Go bag should contain more items in preparation for being away from home for a few days. “You could have a travel bag of not your nicest clothes, maybe something that you’re ready to give to Goodwill, and some basic bathroom travel stuff ready to go,” she said. You don’t want to be left scrambling for items when an evacuation notice is sent out.
Everything should be in one place to reduce the stress.
We can all plan to make an emergency kit, but again, planning is only the first step. Chief Weivoda encouraged us to take action, saying, “I know we all think about [making an emergency kit] but it’s actually doing – that’s the tough part here.”
Communication is key
The next component of emergency planning is developing a communication plan. Some quick tips that Weivoda suggested were:
- Have a physical list of phone numbers and addresses
- Choose a family meeting point in case you get separated
- Have a designated out of town contact person to simplify communication
- Program emergency numbers into your phones and teach children how to call for help
- Invest in a hand crank/solar/battery powered charger for your cell phones
Having a communication plan for your household is the priority, but also consider involving your community in a plan to build resilience. Meeting attendee Juliette Beck asked, “How do we get organized as a neighborhood, as a block, as a community, to deal with these emergencies collectively?” Chief Weivoda answered, “The big thing is getting to know your neighbors, checking in on them, introducing yourself…we recommend trying to start a phone list.” Communicating with your neighbors regularly can also build relationships and helps to assess what your neighbor’s needs and assets might be in an emergency.
Evacuating and sheltering
It’s important to be proactive. We might not know if an emergency is severe until the last minute or on very short notice. If you get a Watch or a Warning, pack the car, prepare your pets, and connect with everyone in your household. Chief Weivoda encourages us to err on the side of caution, saying, “It’s a lot easier to unpack that stuff than to be told five minutes later that you have to evacuate and you’re not prepared.”
Progress on a systemic level
Although no one can control the weather, we can be prepared. The most impactful preparation is on a systemic level, and Chief Weivoda is part of implementing positive change in Yolo County. “We do have some great things happening in Yolo County,” she said. While being proactive and preparing short term for climate emergencies is extremely important, advocating for becoming carbon zero and implementing other environmentally conscious policies are also imperative to ensure a hospitable planet in the future.
Community perspectives on emergency preparedness
Cool Davis SVCC Fellows surveyed market-goers about their experiences and level of emergency preparedness at the December Davis Farmer’s Market. On average, most participants rated their preparedness at about a 3 (on a scale from 1 to 5), meaning that they were somewhat prepared for an emergency. The spread was broad with two rating themselves at 1 (totally unprepared) and three at 5 (totally prepared).
When we asked for details around climate impact-related emergencies, many said they do not have a stay kit or a go bag, and some reported no extra water, no first aid kit, and very little extra food. On the flip side, many cited specific measures of preparation like: kits in their cars, including flashlights, blankets, and tools, and, at home, extra food, water, cash, and clothes. One “micro-generator” was mentioned.
We heard stories of having to evacuate overnight due to a wildfire, which was “nerve wracking with three pets,” and, another community member told of a near evacuation due to the wildfires in Vacaville the previous summer. Several had experienced power outages and flooding due to storms, and one recalled heat waves: “Especially with no AC, it’s hard.”
A word cloud of the survey results is below: