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The Community Wildfire Protection Plan

 

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The Colestin/Hilt Community Wildfire Protection Plan (CWPP)

The CRFD's Colestin/Hilt Community Wildfire Protection Plan (CWPP) establishes ways in which to develop planned responses to emergencies and potential disasters as a community.

General summary: The Board appointed a Community Wildfire Protection Plan Committee to work on establishing a fire plan guideline to address the potential for fire within our district, and ways in which to develop planned responses to emergencies and potential disasters as a community.

The Committee members held an initial community meeting in October of 2004; after a very positive response to the proposal of a Community Wildfire Protection and Emergency Response Plan, and with much input from those attending, the Committee met again on January 4th, 2005. After that, they met with Jackson County's own Fire Plan representatives, to coordinate our district's plan with the County's, and to investigate County-regulated federal grants for fire plan activities carried out by fire districts within the county.

Thereafter, our Committee continued to work on the Fire Plan. Committee Organizer Lisa Buttrey said at the time that, "the [CWPP] Committee members, aided by District residents who expressed an interest in helping to write parts of the Fire Plan, are ... researching materials and writing drafts for the Fire Plan, and that the drafts are being incorporated into the Plan as they are developed... The current goal is to have a solid working Plan in place by the end of spring, although we recognize that the details will continue to evolve."

The Road Signage project, directed at improving our capacity for Emergency Response as part of the Community Wildfire Protection Plan, was approved by the Board and was implemented in April, 2005. Other elements, such as the New and Improved Emergency Phone Tree, has been in progress since spring, 2005. A final draft of the Colestin/Hilt Community Wildfire Protection Plan (CWPP) was completed and publicly presented in June, 2005.

The Fire Plan Committee is Lisa Buttrey (Chair & Coordinator), John Ames, and Elaine Shanafelt.

On this page:

The latest general news

New and Improved Emergency Phone Tree Announcement - June 16th, 2005

Related developments - Road Signage Project

Road Signage letter to community - link

Road Signage Legalities - links

Community Wildfire Protection Plan Meeting - October, 2004

CWPP Meeting Summary (by Elaine Shanafelt)

CWPP Meeting Ballot Results (Values, Hazards, & Solutions)

Background: Letter to Property owners

Survey Sent to Property owners

Property owners Survey results

The Beginnings: Developing a Community-Wide Fire Safety Plan (by E. Shanafelt)

Neighborhood Emergency Response Teams (NERTS)

 

The latest General News:

As of June, 2005, after a full year of work, the Fire Plan Committee (John Ames, Elaine Shanafelt, and Lisa Buttrey) completed and released the Colestin-Hilt Community Wildfire Protection Plan (CWPP). In addition to a public presentation of the main points of the plan by Committee Chair & Coordinator Lisa Buttrey at the community barbeque last June 18th, the plan is now available here on our website in detail. (Due to file sizes the Plan and its Appendices are presented separately.)

"The completed plan," according to Lisa Buttrey, "has an 'Intro' section, a 'Description' section, a brief 'Risks' section, and finally the meat of the document in the last section, 'The Action Plan', followed by the 'Appendices.' The 'Action Plan' gives detailed ideas for things to do and calls for volunteers to do them. [We] hope to get a few 'Action' items assigned to willing takers (from outside the fire department proper!).

The Plan has an enormous wealth of information in it, and reflects a tremendous amount of time, extensive research, many meetings with other fire agency and county officials, and hard work. The result is a document that provides a working plan of action for our community to pro-actively achieve a much better level of fire prevention and protection and disaster preparedness than we have ever known. We are also now in compliance, ahead of schedule, and coordinated with the County's new regional fire plan. Check out the Plan and its Appendices.

 

Also of interest are two very interesting articles that were edited out of the final CWPP:

And a third article, not considered for the Plan but of relevant interest:

CWPP Continuing Developments: Construction Materials Info

Committee member John Ames conducted building materials research pertaining to the Fire-wise Construction Materials and Design section of the Fire Plan. Specifically, he investigated the question of whether OSB or plywood might be preferable from a fire safety standpoint for sheathing and roof deck underlay. He concludes that "it seems plywood is somewhat better, especially for roofs," and says that the following website pages provide "... what appears to be a very good summary of the fire resistance of several modern building materials":

http://nature.berkeley.edu/~fbeall/Fire_Tests/WallSum.html

http://nature.berkeley.edu/~fbeall/Fire_Tests/RoofSum.htm

 

New Emergency Phone Tree

Another development related to the new Community Wildfire Protection Plan is a "New & Improved Emergency Phone Tree." Lisa Buttrey announced this plan in early 2005:

"Many of you attended the October 2004 community meeting to kick off the development of our Colestin & Hilt Community Wildfire Protection Plan. Several residents volunteered to work together on the Phone Tree Task Group to implement an emergency notification system. The Emergency Phone Tree might be used to notify residents of threatening fire, of dangerous or missing persons, of escape routes or safety zones in the event of wildfire, or to refer residents to appropriate radio/TV channels or other information outlets for further updates.

"The Emergency Phone Tree is not likely to be used very often, but we want it to run quickly and accurately in the event of an actual emergency. To this end, the Task Group has established a policy that requires the phone tree to be exercised a minimum of one time per year. The notification system might occasionally be activated for important non-emergency events serving the duel purpose of providing pertinent information to the residents and exercising the tree. Initially, the Task Group expects two or three trial runs to gather cell phone and work numbers and to work out the bugs. The Task Group would like to time these trial runs. Prior notice will be given to those at the bottom of each tree to call back to a central local to give time elapsed info.

"Some of you may be familiar with the community phone tree which has existed somewhat informally for several years. The new system is substantially different in that all residents participate on some level. The Trees are ordered first by who is usually at home, then alphabetically. Every one person will be responsible to call two others.

"In event of an emergency, Fire Department personnel will establish a concise, clear script to be used for every phone call. The script will include:

1. Type of incident
2. Location of incident
3. What to do

If you cannot reach a live person, “Jane Volunteer”, leave a message on Jane’s machine. Include the 3 basics and state that you will complete Jane’s phone tree obligation. Now make the two calls that would have been Jane’s responsibility. Do not stop making calls until you have spoken with a live person.

"Remember, passing basic information around quickly is the goal. It is important not to tie up the phone lines with personal conversations.

"Finally, every resident will be provided with a copy of the tree to which they’ve been assigned. A refreshed copy will be sent annually after feedback from the exercise is incorporated. Please plan to keep your phone tree with your phone to that it’s immediately available in case of emergency.

"Thanks to all the volunteers helping with this project and to all Colestin and Hilt residents for your cooperation in helping us enhance our emergency preparedness."

(You can view a pdf version of this announcement - this requires (printer-friendly) Adobe Acrobat Reader 5.0 or higher, FREE if you need to download it).

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Related Developments:  

The Road Signage Project for Emergency Response Has Begun, as of April 1st, 2005.

As of the December, 2004, CRFD monthly Board Meeting, the Board approved a proposal by our Task Group on Emergency Signs to implement a new road signage project, as part of the Emergency Response section of the Mitigation Strategy (“Action Plan”) portion of the fire district’s new comprehensive Community Wildfire Protection Plan (CWPP).

In January, 2005, we sent out a letter to our district's landowners and residents explaining how this new project would proceed.

View a printer-friendly PDF-format version of our Road Signage Letter to Landowners (requires Adobe Acrobat Reader 5.0 or higher, FREE if you need to download it).

As of October, 2005, much of the signage had been done; it was completed during 2006. The Colestin RFD and the Hilt VFC participated jointly in this project.

As the project neared completion, Teri Thomas, one of our Road Signage Committee Members, wrote a letter to the community (initially published in the private community news, The Buzz) thanking residents for their support of the project:

"Fire District Signs Project Nears Completion, by Teri Thomas"

"Thank you to the community for their overwhelming support of the sign project! And also many thanks to Lisa Buttrey and Brian Dwyer for their countless hours of hard work. Winter weather set in just before we could complete the project, so the remaining households will be signed later this spring. Questions or suggestions can be directed to Lisa Buttrey, 821-5479.

"I signed up for this project at the Community Wildfire Protection Plan meeting because my home is difficult to find and the access has nothing to do with the official street address. It worried me that if my daughter had to call for help, she would not be able to give directions.

"Although many Fire Department volunteers are long time residents, not all are familiar with every the road and driveway in the District. Responding to an emergency at night when time is critical can be very difficult. The committee strove for uniform height and use of reflective materials in order to make it easier for responders to see the signs.

"We have had a lot of positive response from the Forest Service and Ashland Fire & Rescue, especially the Ambulance drivers. These outside agencies have expressed great enthusiasm and increased confidence in their ability to respond in our area. I hope we never have to make those calls, but if we do, and the minutes matter, I’m glad we could make that job easier."

 

Colestin Road Addressing Method Explained

Recently, Fire Plan Committee member John Ames completed and has provided for our website a document that explains and discusses the fire district's address procedure process. He states that "this is the policy and procedure adopted a couple of years ago by the board, with the part relating to multiple address driveways clarified and expanded." John's work takes an often confusing issue and explains it in easily understandable terms, with excellent useful detail. The document, entitled "Address Procedure for Colestin Road," is now available here in PDF format.

(Requires (printer-friendly) Adobe Acrobat Reader 5.0 or higher, FREE if you need to download it).

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Several references to documentation regarding road signage legalities are cited within the above Road Signage Letter to Landowners:

In Siskiyou County, California, address signage for emergency response is already a legal requirement for all homeowners, according to the County's Planning Department staff. All residential development within Siskiyou County is subject to Public Resources Code 4290, Fire Safe Regulations, to the satisfaction of the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CDF). (The Fire Agency for Siskiyou County is CDF.) CDF reviews projects located in the State Responsibility Areas for County Planning for compliance with the State Fire-Safe Regulation (Public Resources Code 4290).

Background information from the California Office of the State Fire Marshal: "In 1991, Senate Bill 1075 (Rogers) passed, enacting minimum fire safety regulations in the SRA through PRC Section 4290. ... Through SB 1075 and associated public hearings, the requirements found in PRC 4290 were enacted. ... The regulations address several major elements of land use, development, and construction, including road and access standards, signage and building identification standards, and other standards for fuelbreaks, private water supply, and fire equipment access. ... The detailed fire safety standards adopted by the State Board of Forestry pursuant to PRC 4290 can be found in Title 14 of the California Code of Regulations, especially Sections 1270-1276.03." Section 1273 focuses on roads and emergency access; Section 1274 specifies signage details.


In Jackson County, Oregon
, signage is now a mandatory requirement for all residences as of December of 2004, with the County’s permanent adoption of the 2004 Land Development Ordinance (LDO). The 2004 LDO reflects the passage of Oregon Senate Bill 360 several years ago. (SB360 requires measures to be implemented by county and local governing agencies, as well as by homeowners, aimed at reducing wildfire risk and increasing fire protection and defensibility in Wildland-Urban Interface areas.) The specific portion of the County 2004 LDO regarding signage is within the section entitled "PROPOSED WILDFIRE SAFETY STANDARDS," and is indexed as 8.7.1 H (Chapter 8.7: WILDFIRE SAFETY, Section 1: Fire Safety Requirements, Subsection H) Address Signs.

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Previously:  

The Committee held another meeting on January 4th, 2005. According to Committee Organizer Lisa Buttrey, "the [CWPP] Committee members, aided by District residents who expressed an interest in helping to write parts of the Fire Plan, are now researching materials and writing drafts for the Fire Plan."

These drafts are being incorporated into the Plan as they develop. The current goal is to have a solid working Plan in place by the end of spring, although we recognize that the details will continue to evolve.

The Committee previously held a Public Meeting for Community Fire Plan Development (now the Community Wildfire Protection Plan) on October 14th, 2004, at 7:00 P.M. at the Hilt Community Church.

The Fire Plan Committee's announcement prior to the October 14th, 2004, meeting succinctly summarized the purpose for the meeting: "Every resident in the Colestin and Hilt Fire Districts is encouraged to attend the Planning Meeting for the Community Safety Fire Plan. This is your opportunity to shape the Fire Plan. The Fire Plan will serve to bring money into our Districts and to direct how that money is spent.

"Your concerns, your goals, your ideas for improving our fire safety and readiness - these are the meat and potatoes of the Fire Plan. Please attend and share your thoughts. This promises to be a fun, dynamic, and interesting meeting. We have a succinct agenda and promise that the meeting will be efficient and well worth your while."

The AGENDA:
1. Why a Fire Plan?
2. Where Are We Headed? Introduction of Fire Plan Outline
3. What do we value that is at risk?
4. List and Prioritize Hazards
5. How Do We Address the Hazards?
6. Introduce Neighborhood Emergency Response Teams
7. What's Next?

(Fire Chief) Steve Avgeris reported at the Board meeting (on Oct. 15th) that the meeting was a great success, with about 50 people in attendance. Both he and the Board members expressed high praise for the Fire Plan Committee's presentation and handling of the meeting, which they felt was very effective.

Lisa also reported that she thought that "the meeting was very well attended, went off like clockwork and was productive... I believe most felt their time was well-spent."

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After the collation of "ballots" from that meeting (below), Fire Plan committee member Elaine Shanafelt wrote the following report:



Community Fire Plan Meeting
- by Elaine Shanafelt

"In the true sense of 'community spirit,' about fifty Colestin and Hilt Rural Fire District residents (representing 30 families and all geographic areas of the District) met at the Hilt Community Church, October 14, to start the process of developing a Community Fire Plan for our area.

"The purpose of the meeting was to identify values held by residents, to identify fire hazards, and to identify ways to reduce the hazards. Lists of values, hazards and solutions were developed from the questionnaires returned by the residents and input from those attending the meeting. After brainstorming each area, those attending were asked to select five items from each list that were most important to them, ranking their selections from 5 points for most important to 1 point for least important. The results of those rankings are described elsewhere in this newsletter.[*]

"An outline of the proposed Fire Plan was also presented. Volunteers were solicited to help compile data and write different aspects of the plan. These great volunteers are already putting pen to paper!

"Attendees also graciously volunteered for various Task Groups. Task Groups have a specific focus and include: Plan and Grant Writers, Water Supply, Home Addresses, Phone Tree, Inspections, Signage, Evacuation Plan, and Work Parties. Already two task groups are being convened: the Signage and Inspection Groups. Any folks unable to attend the meeting, but interested in lending a hand can call the Committee.

"Thanks to Lisa Buttrey for leading the meeting, to those who brought the wonderful snacks, to those who attended and to all who returned their questionnaires.

"CRFD Fire Plan Committee: John Ames Lisa Buttrey Nanc[ee]Carlson Elaine Shanafelt."


[Nancee Carlson served on the Committee for about one month this past November, but has recently moved away and is no longer a Hilt VFD or CRFD volunteer.]

[*] Elaine's letter and the Ballot Results with the values rankings from the October meeting that she refers to in the above letter were also published in the Oct/Nov edition of the Colestin Valley Buzz community newsletter, which is privately published by Lisa Buttrey. For information about the Buzz or Buzz subscriptions, see our Community Page.

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BALLOT RESULTS

from the October 14th, 2004, Fire Plan community meeting:

As the Fire Safety Plan Committee Organizer, Lisa Buttrey states that the ballot results "are the tallies of the ballots submitted by the folks at the recent Community Meeting to kickoff the Fire Plan. The lists that follow have been edited for clarity and brevity and combined into groups that mirror the structure of the Fire Plan Outline. The numbers are the points garnered for each entry or group."

Lisa also acknowledges that, "We know that some residents weren’t able to attend the meeting but may have input they’d like included." She requests that any suggestions or questions should be directed to her, preferably by phone at 541-821-5479, or through our website by email. (Please note that emails to Lisa sent through our site may take longer to receive responses.)

 

VALUES

Homes 141
People 107
Watershed Health & Management 61
Pets & Livestock 53
Fish & Wildlife Habitat 41
Tranquility 40
Timber 34
Viewshed Aesthetics 33
Unique Ecosystem 32
Air Quality 30
Recreation Hiking, Biking 18
United Community 14
Structures 12
Fishing, Hunting 6
Vehicles 5
Farming 3
Range 1
Cultural Heritage 1

According to Lisa Buttrey, " 'Values' were not rated strictly within the framework of Fire Planning, but rather on the broader basis of what we love about living here. Our goal was to get a sense of what is dear to the hearts of community members in order to best reflect these core ideas in our planning, our projects, and even case of emergency."


HAZARDS

Overburden of Fuels
248
  Large areas of overdense vegetation 152
Land not being managed 42
Dangerous standing dead trees 32
Hazardous tall dry grass 11
Flammable non-native vegetation 8
RR ties along tracks 3
Ignition Sources
150
  Train 49
Lightning 32
Freeway 19
Parking in dry grass 14
Arson 14
Careless people 10
Illegal activities 7
Smoking 5
Home Site Issues
136
  Limited water supply near homes 37
Addresses not rational 35
Lack of defensible space 34
Home issues: dirty chimneys, flammable roofs etc 17
Chemical stores 13
Access
94
  Access roads & driveways not cleared of vegetation, too narrow, no turn-arounds etc. 30
Steep terrain 20
Roads and homes not signed 19
“Bottle neck” nature of roads 19
Tertiary roads unusable 3
Limited Accessibility 2
Hazard sign placement 1
Narrow steep stretch of Colestin Rd at mile marker 6 [ ]

 

SOLUTIONS

Methods
191
     Get grant money for projects 69
Support individual landowners, with financial or other assistance, to take responsibility for fire hazard reduction on their own land 33.5
Have qualified persons review and recommend what needs to be done 32
Creative matchmaking: offer resources free to willing users, i.e., access to fire wood, small diameter wood for posts, logging etc. 22.5
Work parties 14
Fire Safe Home Competition with reward, i.e., a vacation :) 10
Mediation 8
RR and Freeway (ODOT & CalTrans) participation 2
Defensible Space and Fuels Management
193.5
  Remove ladder fuels and thin trees along driveways, homes and out-buildings 63.5
Create Fuel Breaks between managed and unmanaged land 46
Mow tall grass where threat to homes 25
Remove dangerous standing dead 23
Prescribed burns 18.5
Fuels Management 11
Fuel reduction on unmanaged land 6.5
Proactive Measures
99
  Education 30.5
Monitor ORV’s esp. during Fire and Hunting Seasons 18
Lightning lookouts 17
Monitor RR 14
Prohibit parking in tall grass 7
Enforcement 6.5
Support of local Fire Depts. 2
Hire a Fire Prevention Officer offset by fines/grants/fees 1
Limit expansion of private dwellings 1
Public flogging :) 1
Awareness and prevention 1
Remove piles of RR ties [ ]
Infrastructure Improvements:
 
ACCESS
63.5
  Remove ladder fuels and thin along main access roads 39.5
Correct address incongruities and work with County to prevent further mix-ups 16
Signage 4
Driveway improvement 3
Improvements of road systems 1
WATER
45
  Increase number of holding tanks/ponds throughout valley 32
Ease permitting process for building ponds 8
Series of high (>6000’) ponds along small creeks 5
Emergency Response
53
  Develop Evacuation Plan 35
Safety Zones 18


CONCLUSION:
 "The ballot results led the Fire Plan Committee to add two new categories to the “Mitigation Strategy” section of the Colestin Hilt Fire Plan Outline, in order to better reflect local priorities. While all these ideas come under the broad heading of “Solutions”, some represent philosophical underpinnings while others are on-the-ground strategies for hazard reduction.

"The “Methods” category has been added to describe matters of philosophical approach or policy. There was also strong interest in what we have collectively called “Proactive Measures”. Anyone interested in a copy of the newly amended Outline can call Lisa Buttrey at 541-821-5479," or a request can be submitted through our website by email. (Please note that emails to Lisa sent through our site may take longer to receive responses.)

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Background Information: Letter to Landowners

Background:

In late July of 2004, the Committee mailed a letter of explanation to our community residents and district landowners, along with a voluntary residential survey, to help identify our needs and resources, for the purpose of establishing and developing a plan for our community's emergency preparedness. In October, the Committee held a Public Meeting for local residents to learn more about the Fire Plan and to gather input from the community.

 


July, 2004

Dear Property Owner,

The Colestin Rural Fire District is developing a Community Fire Safety Plan. The Plan will describe our current situation and provide future actions to reduce fire hazard and improve preparedness in the event of catastrophic fire or other emergency. This survey is intended as a first step in the process. A community fire safety plan does not focus on fire engines or volunteer firefighters. It concentrates on actions by individual members of the community.

Input from District residents is critical in developing a useful plan. A good plan spells out ways that each of us can reduce the risk to our own properties and to the community. It is also a powerful tool in seeking grant monies to help offset the costs of fire hazard reduction.

Completion of all or a portion of this survey is entirely voluntary. We hope that you find it in your best interest to participate and we thank you for your input. Spend 15-20 minutes of your time and together we will provide for a more fire-safe community and greater peace of mind.

Information that you provide in this survey will be used only by emergency personnel and by the Committee for Fire Plan Development.

Questions can be directed to Committee members:

John Ames - (541) 488-5016
Lisa Buttrey - (541) 821-5479
Elaine Shanafelt - (541) 821-6016

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Homeowner's Survey

You can view and print the survey:

After reviewing this Survey, and considering its fire safety points, please print it out, write in your answers as fully as possible, and send it to us.

If you received a survey from us in the mail but have not yet filled it out and sent it to us, we encourage you to do so as soon as possible.

Completed surveys should be mailed to The Colestin Rural Fire District (attn.: Fire Safety Committee), 1701 Colestin Rd., Ashland, OR., 97520.

If you have any questions about the survey or privacy concerns with regard to your personal data, please call us to discuss the matter.

Thank you for helping to develop our Community Fire Safety Plan.

____________________

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Homeowner Survey Results

Fire Safety Plan Committee organizer Lisa Buttrey informed the Board at its September meeting that 27 surveys had been returned so far, with another 10 expected soon thereafter. (She stated in her community newsletter, The Buzz, (Sept./Oct. 2004) that, "of approximately 180 property owners, the Fire Plan Committee has received 27 returned surveys, or 15 [per cent].)

Lisa says that, "We have had very positive feedback from folks, and thank you for your comments in the survey. Super Thanks to all of you who have returned your surveys, and a reminder to others to please set aside 15-20 minutes to fill out and mail your surveys to us."

Lisa also wishes to remind everyone that they can call her at (541) 821-5479 for a replacement survey if they need it and are unable to download and print one from our website.

The Survey is the first step in the process of developing a Fire Plan for the Colestin and Hilt Fire Districts.

According to Lisa, "the Plan will describe our current situation and provide future actions to reduce fire hazard and improve preparedness in the event of catastrophic fire or other emergency. It is also a powerful tool in seeking grant monies to help offset the costs of fire hazard reduction.

"Completion of all or a portion of the survey is entirely voluntary. We hope that you find it in your best interest to participate. All information that you provide in the survey will be used only by emergency personnel and by the Committee for Fire Plan Development."

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THE BEGINNINGS: Developing a Community-Wide Fire Safety Plan

[Reprinted from the Colestin Valley Buzz, July-Aug. 2004, published by Lisa Buttrey.]

Thanks to Elaine Shanafelt for the following article:

All of us in the Colestin-Mt. Ashland-Sisikyou Summit area recognize that one of the greatest threats to our community is fire. At the May 21st Colestin Rural Fire District (CRFD) Board meeting, representatives from the Klamath National Forest presented information on the Colestin Fuels Reduction Project they are planning to complete this summer. They also discussed grants that are available to community groups to make their communities more resistant to fire damage (for example by reducing fuels, improving access, improving water supplies). In applying for such grants, a community-wide fire safety plan is needed.

At the Board's request, three of us attending that meeting agreed to start the process of developing a Fire Safety Plan for the CRFD area. To do so will require input from the entire community.

After reviewing other fire plans and guidelines, we have identified two main areas we need to address:

1) Assessing and prioritizing our community's current fire risk, and assessing our current community disaster-emergency preparedness;

2)Developing an action plan to decrease our risk (fire hazard mitigation) and increase our preparedness.

Community organization is an essential element in collecting the information needed, in implementing any strategies, and in being ready to act effectively and appropriately in an emergency. One model for such organization is NERTS (Neighborhood Emergency Response Teams), based on small neighborhood groups. Some of us have already developed informal arrangements with our neighbors to help each other in an emergency - it comes naturally with living in a community such as ours. But if a major disaster occurs, we will need to coordinate what we are doing in our small neighborhoods with what is happening community-wide.

We need the help of others in our community in creating a Fire Safety Plan and Neighborhood Teams. As a first step in this process, all property owners will receive a survey from CRFD in the near future. Completing the questionnaire is voluntary, but we urge you to have your voice heard. The information will be used to:

1) prepare the Fire Safety Plan, which will enable CRFD to apply for grants;

2) assist the fire district in fighting a fire on or that threatens your property and in protecting your safety, your property and land resources.

3) assist residents in identifying fire risks on or to their property

4) develop a Neighborhood Emergency Response Plan.

As we move forward with developing a Community Fire Safety Plan, we will have specific, short-term tasks which we would like help from the community in accomplishing. If you are interested in helping or have questions, please contact us.

Elaine Shanafelt - (541) 821-6016
Lisa Buttrey - (541) 821-5479
John Ames - (541) 488-5016

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NEIGHBORHOOD EMERGENCY RESPONSE TEAMS (NERTs)

[Reprinted from the Colestin Valley Buzz, Sept.-Oct. 2004, published by Lisa Buttrey.
Thanks to Lisa, John and Elaine of the Fire Safety Plan Committee for this article.]

Many of the residents of the Colestin Valley, including the Siskiyou Summit area and Hilt, have informal arrangements with their close neighbors to look after each other's property and assist each other in emergencies. In order to make these arrangements more effective, the Colestin Rural Fire District (CRFD) is establishing a program to assist in their creation and provide coordination between them and the firefighters in large-scale emergencies.

The neighborhood teams can be as formal and organized, or informal and disorganized, as their participants wish. For coordination with the firefighters, though, each neighborhood team should have at least one or more people who can serve as a point of contact with the fire officials both for development of the program and in emergencies. In this description of the program, this person or these people will be termed the Team Leader, without implying any hierarchy.

Fire and heavy snowfall are emergencies that have been important in the past, so these will be our focus.

What do the teams do?

BEFORE AN EMERGENCY, team members become acquainted with each other and with the rest of their neighbors, decide how they will respond to an emergency, and learn how to work together during an emergency with each other and with the firefighters. The Colestin firefighters will assist with training and information as needed. This training can be as extensive or limited as desired.

DURING AN EMERGENCY, the team checks the status of all the residents of the neighborhood, takes necessary actions, and coordinates with the fire district personnel.

What is required of a Neighborhood Team Leader?

A team leader contacts his neighbors to determine their special needs and or ability to assist in emergencies. The leader organizes neighborhood meetings to plan their preparation and response to emergencies. The team should organize and practice so that any member can assume leadership during an emergency because we can never be sure who will be available at such a time.

More detail on what the Teams do

The teams can do as much or as little as they want. Here are some ideas that come from other similar programs, adapted for our community, in no particular order of application, priority, or difficulty. They are described in terms of a fire emergency, but many apply as well to heavy snow that blocks our roads.

Preparation

MAKE AND INSTALL HOME ADDRESS-DRIVEWAY AND ROAD SIGNS.

  • Think about an emergency responder not very familiar with your area (maybe from another agency) trying to find your house in the dark, under the stress of a fire or medical emergency. The signs must be easy to read (4" reflective letters) and lead a driver in without confusion.

  • All the main roads off the Colestin have locally recognized names. Check with CRFD to see if there are names with which you may be unfamiliar. The Emergency Response Address or E.R.A. system is used by CRFD to describe home locations. It combines your house number with the name of the road you actually live on. Knowing your ERA is important, and the Fire Dept. can tell you if your E.R.A. differs from your mailing or county-recognized address. Signing the main roads off the Colestin is an important measure to take for emergency preparation. CRFD is hoping the Fire Plan might provide financial assistance in meeting this goal.

PLAN FOR EFFICIENT TWO-WAY FLOW OF INFORMATION, from CRFD or other Emergency Officials to Neighborhood Teams and also from the neighborhoods back to the emergency coordination center.

  • Establish a means for distributing information from the fire officials to District residents. One team member may monitor the fire district radio frequency, and relay information to the rest of the neighbors. A phone tree is simple to establish and operate, but depends on the phones working and takes time. Short-range radio is more effective because everyone on the channel hears the message at once, but requires purchasing some equipment. For most groups of neighbors, the simple FRS-GMRS radios available at COSTCO work well. Fire district personnel can help you evaluate your options. If there is enough interest, we can explore the possibilities of establishing a dedicated radio system for two-way communication between the fire district and the team leaders.

  • Another part of the "emergency information" task is to detect spot fires or other emergent problems in your neighborhood and report them to both your neighbors and the fire officials. This might involve planning for team members to "patrol" the neighborhood or observe the area systematically if the houses are suitably placed. Radios are especially helpful in this process.

IDENTIFY A SAFETY ZONE FOR YOUR NEIGHBORHOOD. This is an area where you and your neighbors can assemble and be safe in any fire condition. It should either be free of vegetation or be very well irrigated lawn at least 100 feet in all directions and not near heavy concentrated fuel. It could be a very fire-safe structure. Your neighborhood may or may not have such a space. If not, decide on the nearest or most practical one and do any coordination necessary to use it.

PLAN TO COORDINATE EVACUATION. Some people may prefer, or decide at the last minute, simply to leave the area in the event of a nearby fire. It is very helpful to fire personnel if there is any organized, reliable way for them to be informed of such actions so that they do not waste time and endanger themselves looking for people who are not there. An important task for a neighborhood team is to inform the fire officials of who has left the area, who is at the safety zone, and who is remaining at his-her property.

PLAN FOR PROTECTION OF CRITICAL PROPERTY, PETS, AND LIVESTOCK. For example, one neighborhood group has exchanged house keys, and informed each other of specially marked satchels containing critical documents, mementos, etc., for removal in case of an evacuation order in the owner's absence.

Emergency Response

  • In an emergency, the team members first gather or otherwise make contact with each other and then assess the situation and plan their response. The team should contact the Fire District, advise them of the team's mobilization and initial plan, and learn of CRFD's plan and needs.

  • The team will then execute the initial plan, including determining the status of all the neighbors and the physical situation in its area. New information will in turn be communicated back to CRFD, as it is important in planning an overall response. The more complete the pre-plans suggested above, the more effective, and safe, can be the response.

 

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