Sat, May 21

Ready-Set-Go: Big Park Council looks at emergency preparedness

June 1, 2006, La Barranca fire as viewed from Horse Mesa Ranch. (COURTESY OF Mary Pope)

June 1, 2006, La Barranca fire as viewed from Horse Mesa Ranch. (COURTESY OF Mary Pope)

In an emergency, are you/we Ready—Set—Go? That’s the purpose and scope of the Emergency Preparedness Planning Committee (EPPiC).

Formed last August by the Big Park Regional Coordinating Council (BPRCC), its purpose is to create a disaster resource repository with information and resources on emergencies that may affect our community. Since its formation, the committee has been active discussing content, collecting information and data, concepting a website and brochure, and meeting with key public agencies responsible for keeping our Big Park/VOC community informed and safe in the event of an emergency.

The committee has found the meetings with these agencies to be educational and a foundation for improved understanding of their scope.

As a community service, we wanted to share the highlights of these meetings as a series of articles. Approved minutes of these meetings are posted on the BPRCC website.,

First in a Series: Yavapai County Sheriff’s Office

The committee met with Lt. Jon Johnson, Eastern Area commander. Yavapai County Sheriff’s Office (YCSO) has sole responsibility for evacuation, and Lt. Johnson is responsible for the management of large-scale incidents.

Decisions on who and when to evacuate are based on input from other agencies. In the case of fire, local expertise on the time needed to evacuate is balanced with the speed and behavior of the fire, and prevailing traffic conditions. Other agencies (e.g. DPS, Sedona Police, ADOT) are often called in to control inbound traffic. Sections of the Big Park community are segmented according to a YCSO plan. Evacuation is organized in stages, with those closest to the threat or with challenging egress paths, the first to be placed in Set or Go status (Ready-Set-Go).

YCSO works directly with the incident commander responsible for the fire-fighting, and together they decide the areas to be placed in Set or Go. Management Action Points are created collaboratively and include characteristics of the evacuation area (such as difficult egress, functional needs, senior or memory care facilities and the topography of the area between the threat and the neighborhood). The Incident Management Teams employ fire modeling software to help inform predictions on fire behavior.

Lt. Johnson stressed that the community needs to take the Go evacuation message seriously, as a lot of information, expertise and experience goes into that decision – balancing the cost and disruptive impact of an evacuation with safety needs and requirements.

What Residents Need to Know and Do

Checklists and having a Go-Bag ready are critical to evacuating quickly and minimizing stress. Your car should always have sufficient fuel (or charge) to leave the area, along with supplies such as water and spare clothing. You can find good information on the website.

The Code Red app is a critical resource – it sends alerts via your mobile phone and/or landline. It’s easy to sign-up on the YCSO website ( YCSO also uses Facebook, Next Door and Nixle (which is through the City of Sedona) to provide accurate, timely information. Lt. Johnson cautioned against “sharing” unofficial information via social media, or using the information as the source for updates, as this causes unnecessary fear and panic. He emphasized that, in cases where evacuation information does not get through to residents, officials are assigned to canvas neighborhoods with instructions.

In addition to YCSO officers, the Jeep Posses, Verde Search & Rescue and Yavapai County Search & Rescue Team are volunteer organizations that provide emergency assistance. These groups are equipped for rapid communication with YCSO.

Next month’s EPPiC highlights will feature the Sedona Fire District.

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