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How YC Office of Emergency Management works in our community

The YCOEM (Yavapai County Office of Emergency Management/Public Works), represented by Jon Jones—Deputy Emergency Manager, presented at our May Emergency Preparedness (EPPiC) meeting. Jon has vast career experience in emergency management, mostly in Arizona but also in California. Prior to working for the YCOEM, Jon worked and retired from the Yavapai County Sheriff’s Office (YCSO). There, he took part in the creation of the Incident Command Team formed in 2004 by the Yavapai County Sheriff’s Office.

The central office for YCOEM is in Prescott, staffed with four team members reporting to Jon. Their mission—to focus on pre-emergency preparedness, emergency management, and post recovery operations. In an emergency, they manage the logistics of working with appropriate agencies to secure shelter, transportation, food, water, clothing, etc. During emergency recovery, they coordinate with agencies i.e. the Yavapai County Developmental Services and the Health Department—agencies responsible for confirming the safety of buildings and structures, and in verifying that there are no health risks posed, before the public is allowed to return to evacuated areas.

In evacuation situations, YCOEM works with the American Red Cross (ARC) to set up shelters for evacuees. They contact the ARC as soon as the YCSO declares an incident at “Set” and schools, community centers, etc. are selected outside of the danger zone as shelter locations. In Jon’s experience, most evacuate to hotels, family, friends, and usually, less than expected will show up at the designated shelters. However, YCOEM’s goals is to have adequate shelter made available for evacuees even if there are only a few who need it.

In addition to arranging shelter for evacuees, YCOEM also makes sheltering arrangements for pets and larger animals. They collaborate with organizations such as Animal Disaster Services (ADS) for pets, with the Equine Emergency Evacuation (EEEYC), and with Large Animal Shelters and Emergency Readiness (LASER) that service outside animals larger than a chicken. Jon noted these organizations worked well in evacuating and relocating animals during the Crooks Fire in the Prescott area a few months ago. Also, during that fire, a Type-1 Incident Management team was brought in from California to assist. The California team complimented the Yavapai County’s emergency management agencies on their readiness, and on the interagency communication and cooperation; noting that this area can serve as a model for agency cooperation. Yet another affirmation, this time from an outside agency, about the competence and the collaborative nature of our inter-agencies!

When evacuation is necessary, YCOEM works closely with the Yavapai County Sheriff’s Office (YCSO) to understand the evacuation stages and shelter requirements. They then follow up with the American Red Cross to confirm that shelter is available. Transportation arrangements will depend on the circumstances.

According to Jon, as part of emergency preparedness and planning, care facilities such as Sedona Winds, are required to have evacuation plans. These plans are reviewed by the YCOEM on a five-year updating cycle. Jon will also review/update YCOEM’s population numbers for this area, revising numbers to account for short term rentals, B&B’s, and hotels.

As for our personal part in preparing for emergencies, the message was consistent with advice from the other interagency presenters:

• Clear ladder fuels around homes and buildings to protect our structures.

• Don’t wait for a “Go” order—”Set” is the time to leave with a good guideline being thirty minutes to gather belongings and leave.

• Sign up for Code Red.

• Stay informed — YCOEM keeps an updated Facebook account for their information.

Sound advice, with smoke often looming from surrounding fires too close to home!

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