Marin collaborates on regional wildfire evacuation tool to help guide traffic

02/03/2021

A new virtual evacuation tool will be available to Marin residents by the time the year’s fire season begins. The Marin Wildfire Prevention Authority, a countywide initiative that kicked off last year funded by a new parcel tax, is collaborating with a San Francisco company to launch a website that can provide residents with minute-by-minute evacuation route recommendations in the event of a fire. The platform will reflect traffic flows and potential fire risk, using real-time satellite information along with historical traffic and population data provided by the Transportation Authority of Marin. The new site, which the company Zonehaven is developing, will be linked to AlertMarin, providing evacuation instructions to anyone who is under an evacuation warning or order and helping emergency personnel direct traffic flows. Zonehaven has implemented similar programs in counties throughout the Bay Area, so Marin’s participation will lead to better coordination across the region. Mark Brown, who recently moved from his position as a deputy chief for Marin County Fire into the role of executive officer for the wildfire prevention authority, said the tool goes hand-in-hand with a countywide evacuation study for which the authority is looking for a contractor to complete. The study will examine ingress routes for emergency personnel into Marin’s communities as well as egress routes for residents, rating all evacuation routes based on risk. The announcement of the initiatives follows a damning report by the Marin County Civil Grand Jury, which found that despite the dire need for better evacuation planning, no entity was taking responsibility to find solutions. (The December report in particular called on the Marin Transportation Authority to step up and include evacuation as one of its criteria when planning or funding projects.) Mr. Brown emphasized the collaborative nature of the current initiatives. “We have divided the county into five geographical areas, and the public works agencies and public safety agencies will all come together from each geographical zone and put the plan together,” he said. “This brings all the law enforcement, fire authorities and public works folks to the table to build a plan together.”