Rim Communities Resource Alliance focuses on disaster preparedness

Aug 27, 2023 | Communities

Longtime Crestline activist Rudy Westervelt moderated last Saturday’s Rim Community Resource Alliance meeting (Photos by Douglas W. Motley)

By DOUGLAS W. MOTLEY – Senior Writer

Little did they know at the time, but the creators of the recently formed Rim Communities Resource Alliance would be facing a potential natural disaster in the form of Hurricane Hilary. At their Aug. 19 meeting in the auditorium of the Lake Gregory Education and Community Center, moderator Rudy Westervelt, a longtime Crestline community activist, explained how this new committee had been formed.

“We’ve been meeting every two weeks for the past four months to plan this committee of volunteers, which is composed of Gavin Bialecki, Sara Green, Mike Johnstone, Bill Mellinger and Maureen Mann, to mention just a few.”

Recalling being evacuated during the 1999 Mill Fire, 2003 Old Fire and the 2007 Grass Valley Fire, Westervelt mentioned the ever-present danger of wildfires, floods and earthquakes as good enough reasons to be prepared in advance. “Most of us survived Snowmageddon because neighbors helped neighbors by braving the elements and delivering food, wood and medical supplies to those who were snowed in during last winter’s so-called “Snowmageddon.”

Another example of neighbors helping neighbors cited by Westervelt was when Rotary donated funds to Rebuilding Together, whose volunteers helped repair damage to homes caused by the intense February and March snowstorms. He said he is working on a new website, www.rimcommunities.org.

Speaking next to the approximately 50 or more volunteer-minded audience members was Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA) representative Chad Bowman, who told of the $251.2 million they had spent on 74 nationwide disasters and 23 fires so far this year, as well as the $107 million spent this year in San Bernardino County. After one audience member complained that he was denied emergency funds, Bowman suggested that he should appeal the decision to the agency or call him (Bowman) directly. Another alternative, Bowman said, is the Small Business Administration (SBA), which has approved $7 million in loans to businesses in San Bernardino County damaged by the recent winter storms.

“My job is to help communities, I can provide money, people and power to help with recovery,” said Valarie Mihanovich from the Sacramento-based Office of Emergency Services (OES). “I will be here for the long run, so feel free to reach out to me,” she said, adding that crews at beaches between San Diego and Los Angeles are already creating berms on shore in anticipation of the high surf expected during the incoming Hurricane Hilary.

A Community Organized Relief Effort (CORE) representative for San Bernardino and Riverside counties explained how the agency can provide cash through their voucher system for food and needed medicines. “We are still helping in the Siskiyou County fire with food and resources, and we are assisting in Los Angeles with sandbags, chainsaws, and other supplies for a recent flood disaster. With neighbor helping neighbor, we will survive.”

Mike Fox, a spokesman for Volunteer Organizations Active in Disasters (VOAD), said, “We wait until we get approval from government agencies, then we bring food and supplies in semitrucks to disaster sites. During the blizzard, with the cooperation of Lake Gregory Community Church and Sandals Church, we sent convoys with food to the mountain communities.”

Lt. Craig Harris described the many volunteer opportunities available with the sheriff’s department.

Lt. Craig Harris described the many volunteer opportunities available with the sheriff’s department.

Lt. Craig Harris, soon to be captain in command of the Twin Peaks Sheriff’s Station, spoke about the station’s volunteer units, which includes the Search and Rescue Team; Reserve Deputies; Citizens on Patrol (COP), who assist in neighborhood patrols, traffic and parking control at public events and traffic control during collision and major incident investigations; and the Sheriff’s Explorer program, which educates and mentors youth and provides first-hand experience in the field of law enforcement.

Tracy Lenocker from the Mountain Top Amateur Radio Association explained the importance of using short-wave radio to report emergency information to public agencies such as fire agencies, the California Highway Patrol and the sheriff’s department and to collect and report weather-related information, such as may be needed for this week’s expected hurricane emergency.

A spokeswoman from the Red Cross explained the importance of CPR training, installing smoke alarms and first aid supplies, while Laura Dyberg, president of the Mountain Rim Fire Safe Council explained how to sign up for free curbside chipping of downed tree limbs and branches. “We take care of anything that’s going to burn.”

San Bernardino County Senior Affairs Commissioner Penny Shubnell, who works closely with the county’s Department of Aging,  said, “We help seniors who do not have computers or cellphones. Shubnell, who is a longtime member and former president of the Crest Forest Senior Citizens Club, also spoke about the club’s free senior luncheon program every Tuesday and Thursday, from 12 to 1 p.m.

Barry Robinson, who has been working with the dietitian from Mountains Community Hospital, explained the importance of having 14 days of nonperishable food on hand at all times.

At the conclusion of the hour-and-a-half meeting, a VOAD member was asked what inspired him to become a disaster incident volunteer. He responded, “I’ve been involved with public safety for a long time, having worked such disasters as the Old Fire and Hurricane Katrina. After I retired, I wanted to continue volunteering.”

Crestline resident Cherie Buscomb, who was asked what impressed her the most, offered, “It was really helpful to know who’s who and to get contact information. It will really be great when they (the alliance) get their website open.”


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