Story and photos by Cat Robertson – Staff Writer
There was a great turnout on Aug. 26 at the Green Valley Lake disaster planning community meeting. After a series of storms last winter that many locals refer to as “Snowmageddon,” and a hurricane that threatened Southern California and became a powerful tropical storm that dumped massive amounts of rain happened in the same year, it’s apparent to more and more locals that we need to be prepared for the next disaster before it strikes.
These weather phenomena have people scratching their heads and asking, “What’s next?” and “Are we prepared?”
The tragic fires in Maui have also made residents keenly aware of how quickly and easily disaster can ravage a community, thus leaving it in great need of help from government agencies. But that aid takes time, and sometimes doesn’t come at all, so the community has to prepare to be its own first line of defense.
At last week’s meeting, there was a great community response to the call for help in preparing for disaster. Project coordinator Kathy Benjamin, a retired nurse with a background in critical care and oncology, said the purpose of the meeting was to provide the Green Valley Lake (GVL) community with information about the current state of resources available and to gain an understanding of needed resources in the event of a disaster. It’s their goal to form a GVL disaster team that will enable planning, preparation and response to disasters. They are looking for volunteers with diverse skills, resources and abilities for its sub-committees.
Dozens of locals volunteered to be team leaders and to be on the sub-committees that will address the community’s needs in the event of an emergency. The committees will address communication, medical, shelter, food, search and rescue, construction and equipment needs, as well as training and education.
Community activist Sandi Huckaby, who is also one of the meeting’s organizers, said she was pleasantly surprised to see how many people volunteered. “I think everyone went through Snowmageddon and they see how important it is to be self-reliant,” she noted. “The more organized we are and the more prepared we are, the better off we’ll be because we’ll be so cut off from the rest of the world and it will be quite a while before anyone can get to us.”
“In the initial phase of a disaster it’s going to be on us,” Benjamin said to the community members in attendance. “We need to be sufficient in the initial days of a disaster.”
Huckaby said one of the reasons they decided to have the meeting is because they realized that “we can’t depend on CERT (Community Emergency Response Team) to always be there. It’s good for training, but we want to be able to act on our own because, in the first hours, you really need to check on people and, like in an earthquake, you need to know how many structures are damaged, is anyone trapped or hurt…all that important stuff.”
Huckaby was very happy with the turnout at the meeting. “It went really well,” she said. “It was great to see new people there. When you live in a small town you assume you know everyone, so it was cool to see quite a few people I’d never seen before. I think fresh blood is great because it means fresh ideas, fresh enthusiasm and all of that good stuff.”
Anyone interested in volunteering to help with disaster preparedness can call project coordinator Kathy Benjamin at (951) 285-9000.