Chico (Calif.) Enterprise-Record
September 3, 2005


By Roger H. Aylworth

It won't be a hurricane that brings this area to its knees, but
lurking just out of sight is the north valley's own personal monster
that, as certainly as sunrise, will attack one day.

It could be a massive flood, a series of rampaging wildfires, or it
could be "the Big One," the mammoth earthquake everybody knows is
coming. Whatever the source, the disaster will be sudden, worse that
expected, and nobody will be there to help real fast.

However, the difference between a personal tragedy and survival --
even if horribly unpleasant -- can be a matter of planning.

Janet Upton, spokeswoman for Butte County Fire/CDF, said the time to
get ready for a disaster is long before the flames start marching down
the ridgeline, or the floodwaters are lapping at the door.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency has produced a Web site on the
topic that recommends families sit down and plan well advance of any

The disaster plan covers everything from evacuation routes from the
home or the neighborhood, to out-of-the-area family contacts where
separated family members would check-in in an emergency.

Besides making plans, Upton said emergency agencies urge all
households to have a 72-hour disaster kit.

In any large-scale emergency help won't be coming immediately.

"It will be strictly a triage situation. You will be working in combat
conditions," said Upton.

She explained fire, law enforcement and other emergency agencies will
be stretched. They will have to focus on the most immediate life-
threatening situations first. That means people will have to take care
of their own basic needs for some period of time.

That's where the disaster kit comes in.

The kit should include enough non-perishable food and water to take
care of each person in the household for a minimum of three days.
While food needs vary, Upton said the kit should have at least a
gallon of water for each person per day.

"One of the things people forget is pets are family members too," and
there should be water and food available for them too, according to

There should be a change of clothes for each member of the family in
the kit.

Upton said people should think in terms of long sleeve shirts and long
pants made of tough fabrics, along with "sturdy shoes" and gloves.

She explained that in the event of almost any large scale emergency
there could be debris and wreckage to move, which makes strong gloves
an important part of safety equipment.

People should have enough of their medications in the kit to get
through the emergency, back-up eye glasses, and diapers for infants.

"Cell phones probably aren't going to work but you definitely need
batteries and an AM radio," said Upton. The radio is necessary because
it may be the quickest way to get emergency information.

Downed power lines and scrambled telephone communications mean that
banks and ATMs may not be in operation, so Upton encourages people to
keep a stash of cash in the emergency kits.

Blankets and or sleeping bags are on the necessity list, and FEMA
advises people to have plastic sheeting in their packs that can be
used to fashion emergency shelter as needed.

Another important factor in preparing for a disaster, is to be
prepared to take evacuation orders seriously.

In Butte County, according to Upton, there are two levels of
evacuation notification.

The first level, a "" target="_blank">" target="_blank">precautionary evacuation advisory," means you may
have to evacuate.

Upton said people are in an area covered by a" target="_blank">" target="_blank">precautionary
announcement should begin to prepare. If they have children, many
pets, or handicapped or elderly people in the household, the family
should seriously consider getting out of the effected area early.
These people may find they can't move quickly so they may need to move

The second level is called a "immediate threat evacuation advisory,"
which essentially means, "Get out right now!"

Upton said there is no reason to expect there to be a" target="_blank">" target="_blank">precautionary
advisory before the run order comes out.

"A wildfire (which is one of the more likely local emergencies) is so
dynamic that you may not get an evacuation order," she said.

Upton explained phone lines burn down, power outages may make
notification by television unavailable .

"There are not enough deputies to be at every single door at the right
moment," she said.

As a result individuals and families need to be aware of local
conditions and to be ready to evacuate without being told to do so.

She observed that in any significant disaster the first level of
rescue people need to depend on is themselves.

Staff writer Roger H. Aylworth can be reached at 896-7762 or by e-mail

Copyright 2005 Chico Enterprise-Record