S. E. Williams
Warnings about the potential power of this season’s El Nino were ominous. When the first storms of 2016 hit California, it appeared the weather pattern would certainly live up to its expectations.
According to the latest update from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), residents should expect the weather for January through March 2016 to trend wetter than usual. This weather pattern will cover much of the southern tier of the nation, from California into the Desert Southwest to the southern and central Plains, as well as the Gulf Coast and Southeast coast, including Florida.
Officials continue to advise Californians to prepare for what may lie ahead. El Nino is expected to drop large amounts of precipitation on this region this year, San Bernardino officials advised. They have also cautioned all citizens to prepare for what may be more unusual weather events. They are particularly concerned with those who live in areas recently burned by wildfires because these constituents face unique challenges.
In those areas, vegetation that would normally absorb the rain was burned away. The charred ground has lost soil strength and can no longer absorb an abundance of rainwater effectively putting those communities at increased risk of flooding and mudflows for several years. However, it is important to note that not only are the properties that burned at risk but possibly, those located down slope of the burn areas are most at risk.
County officials also warned, “Post-fire landslide hazards include fast-moving and highly destructive debris flows; can exert great impulsive loads on objects in their paths; can strip vegetation; block drainage ways; damage structures; and, endanger human life.” What may be most concerning is wildfires can, at times, potentially result in the destabilization of pre-existing, deep-seated landslides over long periods of time.”
The best way to prepare for flooding is to plan ahead. The San Bernardino County Fire Departments has free brochures, Ready! Set! Go! Flood Preparation. The publication contains important information regarding some of the things you can do to protect your home, property and family and is available on line at www.sbcfire.org/flood_prevention_advice.aspx
Some of the tips include the need to clean out rain gutters and storm drains. It also has information regarding where you can sign up for emergency alerts; which fire stations have sandbags available; and, what should be kept in an emergency kit. The brochure also provides specific information for areas that have recently been burned by wildfire. Riverside County also has preparation information available on line at www.rivcoready.org/Have-a-Plan/Flooding.
Officials recommend sandbags are best used to help protect doorways provided a waterproof layer like heavy plastic or waterproof canvas is placed behind them and when possible, secured to the door frame. It is also recommended sandbags be stacked in a pyramid formation and the plastic wrapped up and over the top. Sandbags do not guarantee a water-tight seal, but if placed properly they can help redirect water, mud and debris away from your home.
To find a sandbag location near you and/or for additional information on how to prepare for an approaching storm, in San Bernardino County visit www.sbcfire.org/flood_prevention_advice.aspx. Residents of Riverside County can go to www.rivcoready.org/Have-a-Plan/Flooding/FIND-SAND-SANDBAGS.
In emergency situations like floods, wildfires, active shooters, etc. both San Bernardino and Riverside County Sheriff Departments send out high-speed mass notifications by telephone and text messages (reverse 911 calls); however, it is estimated that nearly 47 percent of the households in America do not have landlines so when dangerous situations occur and authorities issue emergency evacuation or shelter in place orders by phone—these households will not be notified unless residents register their cell phones.
The San Bernardino County Office of Emergency Services (County OES) uses a Telephone Emergency Notification System (TENS) to facilitate emergency notification of county residents; while Riverside County’s system is identified as the Early Warning Notification System (EWNS).
The TENS/EWNS systems use a database of phone numbers and addresses which are coded with the county’s street network to identify residents in a specific area to call with emergency alerts. Landline telephone numbers flow to the 911 database and are automatically updated via a flow through process with the telephone companies every six months; unfortunately, the same is not true for households/businesses within the counties that only use cell phone and/or VoIP service. (VoIP is Voice over IP technologies used for placing and transmitting telephone calls over an IP network, such as the Internet).
VoIP use has also increased exponentially in recent years. Specialists estimated at the end of 2012, more than 31 million American households used VoIP as the main and only home phone line.
For Riverside and San Bernardino County residents who may use one of these technologies as their only home phone, it is imperative they get their telephone number information entered to their county’s TENS or EWNS database in case there is ever a need for emergency notification.
Including your address information in the county emergency notification systems is also important because TENS/EWNS alerts do not generally go out to an entire county; but, instead are targeted to affected areas. If your address is in an affected area, the alert will be sent to your landline if applicable, or, to the cell phone or VoIP number or email address you have provided. In addition, for residents in unincorporated areas of the counties particularly mountain and desert regions it is very important to let the TENS/EWNS databases know how to find your address. Your nearest cross streets are acceptable or GPS coordinates are even better. P.O. Boxes will not work for the emergency notification system.
You can register your cell phone with the Department of Emergency Services for San Bernardino County at http://www.sbcounty.gov/SBCFire/Tens/TENSContact.aspx. For those who do not have access to the internet, San Bernardino County has partnered with the 2-1-1 hotline to assist with registration. Please call 2-1-1 to request registration assistance. In addition to your cell/VoIP number also have your physical address ready including the name, type and direction (Example: 123 N. Rose Avenue, City, State, Zip).
In Riverside County you can register your cell phone or VoIP telephone number by logging on to http://countyofriverside.us/Residents/Emergencies/EarlyWarningNotificationSystem.aspx, click on the “Register Now” button and complete the form. Like San Bernardino County, for those who do not have access to the internet, Riverside County has also partnered with the 2-1-1 hotline to assist with registration.