Residents weigh in on disaster preparedness

A small group of La Cañada Flintridge residents gathered Tuesday at City Hall to do their part in ensuring the city is prepared for earthquakes, fires, floods and other potential natural disasters.

City officials are required by state and federal law to maintain hazard mitigation plans for both responding to and preventing public emergencies.

As part of the process of updating those plans, residents gathered to complete a brief survey ranking their concerns about a number of potential disasters and asking for suggestions about what officials can do to increase citywide emergency preparedness.

“This is a way for us to look and see what we can do to keep something from happening,” said city Public Safety Coordinator Peter Castro. “We want to see what’s important to the community to make sure we’re taking the right steps with our hazard mitigation plan.”

Castro said residents who could not make the meeting but still wish to participate have until April 8 to fill out a survey. Copies are available at City Hall and on the city’s website,, under the “hazard mitigation survey” link.

A follow-up meeting will occur in late April or early May to respond to residents’ concerns before plans are finalized, he added.

So far, residents have suggested a number of disaster-preparedness options.

William Pounders, a retired Los Angeles Superior Court judge, wrote that city officials should push for more La Cañada Flintridge residents to undergo Volunteer Emergency Response Team (VERT) training. VERT training teaches earthquake readiness, first aid, light search and rescue, do-it-yourself fire suppression and emergency communications skills so residents can pitch in as first responders in the event of a disaster.

Kent Allmon, director of facilities for Flintridge Sacred Heart Academy, hopes the city will spend more time assessing fire threats posed by vacant, brush-covered land near homes and businesses, supporting or expanding current efforts by the L.A. County Fire Department.

La Cañada Flintridge Chamber of Commerce President Pat Anderson, whose home was severely damaged by post-Station fire mudslides near the Mullally debris basin, filed two surveys: one on behalf of the business community, the other as a homeowner.

In addition to the often-discussed threats posed by earthquakes, wildfires and floods, Anderson’s concerns included the threat of a terrorist attack on JPL and the possibility of hazardous waste spills during freeway accidents — a risk she fears would increase if the Long Beach (710) Freeway were extended.

“The 210 runs right through the heart of our community, and we have 10schools 50 yards away from the freeway,” Anderson said.

Anderson also said she’d like to see L.A. County firefighters allowed to play a more active role in responding to events like the Station fire, which occur on U.S. Forest Service land above the city.

City Public Safety Commissioner Olivia Brown and husband Steve Brown also focused on wildfire preparedness.

They suggested that the city purchase or lease fire-suppression aircraft that would be available at a moment’s notice to douse trouble spots before they spread into all-out wildfires.

“Water-dropping planes were very sorely lacking in the last fire, even though I know [then Mayor] Laura [Olhasso] did everything she could to get them,” Steve Brown said.

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