Preparations in Place for Wildfire Season

With the onset of wildfire season, Spring Lake Village and Friends House have “moved from preparedness to readiness,” according to Mary McMullin, Chief Advancement Officer. As part of an ever-evolving process, this year the communities increased their readiness by hosting an Emergency Preparedness Week, including practicing an in-depth evacuation plan, as well as making changes to their landscaping.

Spring Lake Village has been working with the Santa Rosa Fire Department to determine what physical changes to make to prevent fire from impacting the community. The Fire Department’s Assistant Fire Marshal toured the community with residents and staff to provide recommendations on vegetation management, which the facilities department put into practice by clearing brush, removing dead branches, and building perimeter hardening. Future work will include the pruning and removal of trees on the campus’ perimeter.

Based on CalFire recommendations, staff have also reviewed the fire hydrants and sprinkler system as well as the irrigation system to see how it can be used as protection at the perimeter of the community.

Community leaders have worked together with the Fire Department to create a thorough wildfire response plan that covers monitoring, evacuation procedures, securing evacuation housing, and communication plans to keep residents, their families, and staff apprised of what is happening.

In case of an emergency, resident wardens work with management to ensure that all residents are safe and accounted for. Wardens follow up with those in their building to make sure that everyone has heard and understood any warnings that have been issued, connect with their group at a designated spot if an evacuation is ordered, and ensure that all residents have transportation that allows them to leave the community safely. Their work will help a potential evacuation go smoothly by ensuring that residents in their area are safe and know what is happening.

Emergency Preparedness Week

Wardens aren’t the only residents with a role to play in emergency preparedness. To provide all residents and staff with the information they might need, Spring Lake Village and Friends House hosted Emergency Preparedness Week from July 13th through 15th. The week began with an evacuation drill, walking through what will happen if an evacuation is ordered. Residents learned how they will be notified of an evacuation then met with their wardens before traveling to the temporary evacuation site. This site, located at A Place to Play in Santa Rosa, will be the main hub for coordinating next steps in case of an evacuation, particularly relating to where residents will be evacuating to, whether that’s with local family members, other Front Porch communities in the Bay Area, or local hotels.

The drill was not only a good way to acquaint residents with what will happen during an evacuation but it also allowed staff to practice how they will set-up and support residents at the temporary evacuation site, according to Diane Waltz, Director of Wellness at Spring Lake Village. “We learned so much from the evacuation drill, receiving valuable feedback from the residents, park management, and fire personnel,” notes Waltz, “Having a plan in place and going to the temporary evacuation location helped to ease both staff and resident fears about what to expect during a real emergency evacuation.”

On Wednesday, July 14th and Thursday, July 15th, residents and staff attended presentations from the Santa Rosa Fire Department, the Parks department, staff, and residents about the preparations that are being made for wildfire season and what will happen if an evacuation is ordered. Topics for the presentations included what happens at a management level when an evacuation warning is announced, preparations being made by the Fire Preparedness Task Force at Support Services, procedures for evacuating Assisted Living, Memory Care, and Skilled Nursing, and what criteria is used to determine that residents can return to the community. Residents also learned alternative routes if evacuating from campus, how best to support residents with mobility issues, and what triggers the incident command center to be set up by staff.

On top of the presentations, a sample go-bag with a recommended list of contents, maps to the local evacuation spot, and Frequently Asked Questions, along with other materials were available for residents in the community auditorium throughout the week.

Though the hope is that these plans will never need to be used, all of the preparations give Spring Lake Village and Friends House residents and staff confidence that they will know what to do and that the communities are ready to support them no matter what happens.

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