The number of people reported missing in the Butte County CA “Camp Fire” have climbed to over 600. Of those names that have known ages or age ranges, most are people over the age of 50 and 60. (The death toll is now 63.) See list of the missing here.
Two days ago I wrote to a number of my elected state and federal officials to urge them to take the following actions, and more, to address the particularly gruesome and tragic plight of elderly people trying to flee wildfires, and dying in them. This is possibly the first of several blogs on the topic of senior safety, disaster prep for seniors and people with disabilities, etc. My focus will be Lake County CA, rural counties, and the State of California.
Senator McGuire’s office has been the first to respond. I deeply appreciate the detailed responsive from his staff.
My Letter to CA Senator Mike McGuire
Nov. 14, 2018
Dear Senator McGuire,
Seniors over the age of 60 make up all most all of those missing in the Butte County “Camp Fire.” If we are indeed planning for a “new normal” of annual, massive wildfire devastation then the plight of seniors cannot be ignored. How terrible it is to live as long as 60, 70, 80, or 90 years and then to perish so horribly. And for those who are found, somehow safe, they are very likely now without homes as winter approaches.
I live in Lake County, CA, two counties away from Butte, and of course our county has been extremely hard hit as well by these fires. I am also 65, and very aware of my vulnerabilty. I had to evacuate this last summer due to the Mendocino Complex Fires.
I want to urge you to consider seniors as a population in need of special attention during both fire and disaster prep planning, as well as evacuation and recovery. There should be (if there isn’t already) a special task force looking at factors such as:
1) high housing costs in urban area which may be driving vulnerable low income people to rural areas;
2) the lack of subsidized programs to assist seniors and other low income people to cut back trees and brush around their property–it takes money to “harden” a home and yard in preparation for wildfire season.
3) Social and logistical isolation.
4) Lack of educational programs for prepping geared especially for seniors, accompanied by community check-ins, volunteer programs to assist prep, etc.
5) Physical and mental issues–are people who are mildly cognitively impaired going to understand what to do in case of an emergency? Or will their response time be slower? Are they unable to load their care with emergency supplies because they are so heavy? And so forth.
6) Emergency shelters and short term housing to accommodate special needs.
and I am sure there is much more than I haven’t thought of.
In addition, Lake County seems to have no CERT disaster prep programs at all, let alone anything specific to seniors. This should be addressed ASAP.
Please do what you can to address this topic.
Amy Marsh, Ed.D.
Response from the office of State Senator McGuire (slightly abbreviated):
“I will of course share your concerns and the unmet needs you voiced in your email with Senator McGuire and our Legislative Director.
Lake Office of Emergency Services or Lake OES (http://www.lakesheriff.com/About/OES.htm) would have additional information about programs in Lake. I would recommend contacting them at (707) 262-4090 or LakeSheriffOES@lakecountyca.gov. Through Lake OES there is also a Disaster Council that is an advisory board for the County Board of Supervisors – the purpose is to lead ongoing efforts to improve preparedness countywide and provide oversight for critical disaster functions. Your Supervisor, Jim Steele, is the chair of the council. I would also recommend contacting him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
In regards to housing, Senator McGuire along with Senator Beall are holding a second critical affordable housing hearing tomorrow (the first one was in October this year). Below is more information about the hearing and you can also watch it tomorrow here: http://www.senate.ca.gov.
Senator McGuire and Senator Beall hold second critical affordable housing hearing this fall
Second fall hearing on Friday in Los Angeles will focus on land use policies and the housing crisis in communities big and small across California
Sacramento, CA – Two State Senators who chair the key committees focused on housing and housing financing legislation in the Senate have partnered to host two critically important legislative hearings this fall on the affordable housing crisis.
Senator Jim Beall, Chair of the Senate Transportation and Housing Committee and Senator Mike McGuire, Chair of the Senate Governance and Finance Committee will hold the second of the two hearings this Friday in Los Angeles.
“Increased funding alone will not solve our housing crisis or ensure enough affordable housing for those who need it. We must also take a broader approach that incentivizes more subsidized and unsubsidized housing production by speeding up a cumbersome and costly permitting process and reducing barriers to home production,” said Senator Beall
The first hearing, “Housing for Working Families: How Do We Pay For It?” was held on October 2nd and assessed current state and local funding sources for affordable housing, identified funding gaps, and began to discuss the need for additional legislative changes beyond funding in order to address the state’s housing crisis.
Building on the first hearing, the second hearing this Friday will examine changes to land use policies that are needed to increase density and ensure that housing is affordable to all Californians, as well as how the housing crisis looks different across the state. “California’s Affordable Housing Crisis: Tailored Solutions to the Land Use Conundrum in Communities Big and Small” kicks off at 10 am this Friday, Nov. 16 at the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California in Los Angeles.
“No matter if you live in the Redwoods of Humboldt County or the bustling streets of Los Angeles, every community in every corner of California is faced with an affordable housing crisis. In the coming months, Senator Beall and I will be advancing a comprehensive affordable housing and financing package that will help working families and seniors live and thrive in the communities they call home by providing innovative solutions to one of this state’s most significant challenges.
An all-star panel of housing experts from across the Golden State lined up to speak at Friday’s hearing are:
Vince Bertoni, Planning Director, City of Los Angeles
David Kiff, Interim CEO, Association of California Cities-Orange County
Rob Wiener, Executive Director, California Coalition for Rural Housing
Michael Lens, Professor, UCLA Luskin School
Joan Ling, Professor, UCLA Luskin School
Jason Rhine, Assistant Legislative Director, League of California Cities
Dr. Murtaza Baxamusa, Director of Planning and Development, San Diego County Building Trades Council Family Housing Corporation
Ed Casey, Partner at Alston & Bird and Chair of the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce’s Land Use, Construction, and Housing Council
Laura Raymond, Director, Alliance for Community Transit – Los Angeles
In addition to the Hearings, the Senators are meeting with dozens of stakeholders from across the state to gather information and impact positive change at a regional level. Beall and McGuire acknowledge that one size solutions do not fit all, but communities of all sizes in every corner of the Golden State must advance solutions to address the housing crisis. The two Committee Chairs will be working together to advance a comprehensive affordable housing and finance package that will be unveiled in early 2019.
Friday’s hearing will be livestreamed online at http://www.senate.ca.gov.
Also, since Senator McGuire’s Emergency Alerts Bill (SB 833) passed this last September, statewide emergency alert standards are going to be developed, training for local emergency managers will be implemented and the state will be investing in a more proactive and effective mutual aid response system.
Next year, Senator McGuire will be working on developing these statewide emergency evacuation alert protocols collaborating with a working group that will include emergency responders and public safety leaders from across the state, as well as local elected officials, disability advocates, radio and television broadcasters and representatives from the telecommunication and wireless industries. And this working group will focus on creating and defining these new statewide standards.
Lastly, the legislation will also advance annual training for local emergency managers on how to best utilize alert software and how to deploy alerts, and will develop procedures to send alerts through multiple communication mediums, including radio, television and electronic highway billboards.
Thank you again for reaching out to our office and voicing your concerns. Please let me know if you have any questions.
[End response from CA Senator Mike McGuire’s office.]