With California’s deadliest and most destructive wildfires still fresh on the minds of everyone, East Bay first responders are trying to prepare people for the next major emergency and evacuations.
Hundreds of homes will get an early morning wake-up call at 7 a.m. telling them to evacuate immediately. Though not mandatory, most of the homeowners have agreed to participate, wanting to be ready if a major fire or earthquake really does force them out of their homes in a hurry.
Part of the drill is to prepare for a real emergency and avoid the chaos that can lead to tragedies like the one that happened in Paradise last month when hundreds of evacuees got stuck in traffic, some forced to flee on foot.
“My stepmom actually died in the fire in Paradise,” said Moraga Country Club resident Jim Holt.
Holt’s stepmother was one of 86 people who died in the Cam Fire, one of many caught in the flames as they tried to evacuate Paradise on the only road out of town.
“They drove about a half mile from the residence and got stuck in traffic, and the vehicle caught in fire and there was an explosion,” said Holt.
The Moraga-Orinda Fire District and other area emergency service agencies will evacuate Holt’s home and more than 500 others in the Moraga Country Club neighborhood starting with an automated phone call from the area’s emergency alert system just before seven.
“It will say, ‘This is a drill. We’re asking you to evacuate,’” Dennis Rein from the Moraga-Orinda Fire District said.
First responders and volunteers will then help shepherd hundreds of mock evacuees down the only road out of the neighborhood and then north up Moraga Way to a safety zone.
“We’re trying very hard to move as many people as possible on very small roadways as quickly and as efficiently as we can,” Rein said.
Emergency officials will evaluate data collected during the drill like traffic flows and travel times to help fine tune evacuation plans.
They’re already talking about more evacuation drills in Orinda and Lafayette.