Disaster readiness resources

07/14/2021

On the eve of the one-year anniversary of the Woodward Fire, officials are urging residents to prepare for another conflagration. Now is the time to plan: Know your two routes out and be ready with two different means of transportation—driving but also bicycling or walking. Decide how you’ll communicate with family if you lose cell phone and internet service. Pick a designated meetup spot. It is also important to practice your plan. In times of stress, it’s best to rely on “muscle memory,” said Stinson Beach fire chief Jesse Peri. Create an emergency kit and practice packing it and other valuables into the car, then drive somewhere safe. Below is a list of resources to help residents prepare for and react to unfolding emergencies.

Alert Marin is a targeted emergency notification system that offers detailed information and is geographically focused. It’s free, but requires registration at marinsheriff.org/services/emergency-services/alert-marin. You can select to receive notifications for your home city, work location and other sites on your home, mobile or VoIP phones, email address or text messages. “This is how we communicate with you,” Mr. Peri said. “This is how we can tell you, in the middle of the night, where and what to do.” 

According to the Marin County Sheriff’s Office, 99 percent of households are registered for AlertMarin in Point Reyes Station, Inverness, Olema and Lagunitas-Forest Knolls neighborhoods. About 66 percent of households in Tomales and Dillon Beach and 63 percent of those in Marshall are registered.

Nixle serves a larger geographic area and is used to convey general non-emergency information, such as road closures, downed trees, general updates, post-disaster information and general safety information. Information is sent over your cell phone by text message and email. Go to local.nixle.com/ to set up your account or text your zip code to 888-777.

Zonehaven identifies your evacuation zone and alerts you by phone or email if it's time to leave – and, if you’re evacuated, when it’s safe to return. It is not yet fully deployed in Marin County, but will be ready later this year. To find your zone, type in your address at community.zonehaven.com/. For more information about how Zonehaven works, go to myzone.zonehaven.com/.

Wireless Emergency Alert is the federal government’s public alert and warning system that sends very simple amber alert-style warnings by text. You don’t have to register; alerts are automatically distributed. Because an alert is limited to 360 characters, there’s limited information. It spans a large geographic area based on cell towers, so it can’t tell you where a fire is, when to evacuate or where to go.

Evacuation tags are large stickers that you place on your home if you’ve left, telling firefighters that the house is empty so they can focus their attention on those who still need help. If your entire road is evacuated, put it out by the mailboxes. Find your distribution location at marinsheriff.org/services/evacuation-tag.

Important fire-emergency terminology: An “evacuation warning” means it’s time to quickly gather your valuables and put them in the car, so you’re ready to leave. An “evacuation order” means you need to get out immediately; you do not have time to prepare. “Shelter in place” tells you to find safety in the largest unburnable area in your vicinity; for many of us, it might mean the beach.