Disaster survivors share experiences, advice

City officials and staff listened to recommendations from survivors of fires, floods and landslides at a workshop Saturday.

"We wanted to hear how people survived and what they learned from the experience," said Councilwoman Elizabeth Pearson, who led the meeting with Councilman Kelly Boyd.

Diane and Cort Kloke lost their home in the 1993, and again in 2008, to fires. Her advice: meticulously examine insurance policies.

Most people have no idea what it will cost to replace their home and are underinsured, she said.

"Rebuilding is generally a three-year process," said Diane Kloke, who said the little-known city policy that fast-tracks in-kind replacement shaved a year off their rebuild time.

That can amount to serious money because property owners' rent generally is covered for one year, after which they are paying rent, a mortgage and reconstruction costs, she said.

Diane Kloke recommended consulting with a builder about replacement costs and then visiting an insurance agent to determine coverage.

"The workshop was very educational," Pearson said. "People didn't come to complain. They came to give constructive input."

She plans to recommend the establishment of a standing disaster-emergency preparedness committee.

Boyd, who presented a history of disasters in Laguna Beach since the 1930s, said he would like to see trained disaster responders organized in Laguna.

"The most concern I heard was about ingress and egress, being able to get in and out of where people live," Boyd said.

North Laguna resident Gary Beverage is more concerned about how to energize efforts to prepare for a disaster.

"I was a member of an informal citizen disaster committee a couple of years ago," Beverage said. "We were told we had to take care of ourselves for two to four days. "Laguna is wonderful [at] coping with a disaster, but trying to get people excited about something that hasn't happened is difficult.

"I came up with this idea that we could get the three supermarkets to pack and sell boxes stocked with supplies, such as a non-electric can opener, and with food and water, date-stamped," Beverage said. "Every year, as the sell-by date comes around, the food could be donated to the Laguna Relief and Resource Center. They get food and you get a tax deduction."

Once a disaster strikes, the markets, two of which are adjacent to drug stores, could serve as triage centers, where local doctors could care for the injured, Beverage said.

Transportation of the more seriously injured to Mission Hospital Laguna Beach would have to be found.

"We could move the injured down the beach, if necessary, and load them onto dinghies and float them down the hospital," Beverage said. "A city-owned helicopter would be better."

Beverage said he was pleased to see how seriously city officials are taking the need to prepare.

"The city was well-represented at the meeting," Beverage said. "The whole council was there."

Fire, police and marine safety department chiefs also attended, as well the Public Works director and three planning commissioners.

"The greatest takeaway for me was the experiences of survivors and their recommendations to others on how to prepare for future disasters," City Manager John Pietig said.

Jan Perkins, a Laguna Canyon resident and former city manager, is gathering information gleaned at the workshop for publication on the city's website. The report also will be e-mailed to workshop participants who left addresses at the meeting.

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