Social network 'Nextdoor' to help disaster committee

The Disaster Preparedness Committee is adding a new tool to its readiness kit for quick and effective response to emergencies in Laguna.

"Nextdoor" is a free social network website that allows users to connect with people who live in their neighborhood. The committee is piloting the use of the network, according to a committee report presented by Chairwoman Sue Kempf to the City Council at the April 23 meeting.

"We have implemented or joined four specific neighborhoods: Laguna Terrace Park — what we call Wesley Protection Zone — part of North Laguna, a portion of Laguna Canyon and Bluebird Canyon," Kempf said.

"What we would like to do is create neighborhoods that mirror our [structure protection groups] as closely as possible and get [Community Emergency Response Team (CERT)] members to act as group leaders," she added.

Structure protection groups are a fire department system of differentiating areas of the city.

"It will be a lot of logistical work, but it will be worth it," Kempf said.

After the logistics are completed, the committee will work with Police Capt. Darin Lenyi and Public Safety Dispatcher Jordan Villwock to set up "Nextdoor City," also free, which will allow police, fire or city personnel to post to specific neighborhoods.

"Cities like Ventura, Riverside, Napa, Santa Barbara, Palm Springs and many Bay Area cities are using this tool," Kempf said.

The City Council created the Disaster Preparedness Committee two years ago to vet and report on programs and to organize a cadre of community members to back up professional emergency personnel in a disaster.

Since then the committee has worked with Villwock to invigorate the CERT program, which trains community members to assist police, fire and medical personnel is the event of a disaster.

The third CERT class graduated Saturday, Lenyi said.

"Most of the committee participated in the first seven-week course in 2012," said Kempf. "As of May 4 of this year, we have 79 CERT-trained residents."

A $5,000 grant from the city and a $2,500 donation from Doctors Ambulance funded the training. The committee requested another $5,000 from the city for more training classes.

The committee also recommended changes to the proposed protection and restoration of native vegetation ordinance that allows fuel modification and fire breaks based on seasonal growing conditions.

Public participation is welcomed at committee meetings and has produced some good ideas, Kempf said, including suggesting mobile solar panels for emergency use, reclaimed water for irrigation and a communication link between City Hall and the 93.5 local radio station.

The committee has nine members: Sandi Cain, Gary Beverage, John Keith, Tim Templeton, Rob Patterson, David Horne, Dave Sanford, Ann Quilter and Kempf.

Five terms are ending, and June 11 is the deadline to submit applications.

Applicants will be interviewed by the council and appointments made at the June 18 meeting.

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