February 23, 2024
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Dubroff: You can never be too prepared for emergency scenarios

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It’s December and we’re fighting fires again.

Ventura County’s South Fire, which broke out December 9, burned more than 2500 acres before it was largely contained a few days later with minimal damage. 

Lompoc and Santa Barbara County officials are also investigating recent brush fires near the La Purissima Mission State Park. 

And the area near Oceano witnessed a small fire in dense brush on Dec. 11.

Editor Henry Dubroff

This flurry of activity reminds us that we’re fighting fires year round, in dry years and wet years.

Higher temperatures, stronger winds and a more volatile atmosphere are making emergency preparedness a much bigger priority for businesses, nonprofits and other Central Coast organizations.

In September, with support from the Ventura County Community Foundation, the Business Times created its first emergency preparedness guide for the region. (Check out pacbiztimes.com/emergency-preparedness/)

We used real-time experiences from the Business Times and other organizations to explain why having a go-bag and water bottles are not all you need. 

To be really prepared, you need to have a handle on where your remote and on-site employees are and what their capacity is to handle an approaching emergency. 

You need to have your organization’s most important data stored in a secure place where key people can access it. You need to know how to reach your insurance providers in case you need to file a claim.

And most of all, it’s important to understand the mental and emotional trajectory of any emergency — fire, flood, earthquake, tsunami, hurricane — because anticipating an approaching disaster and getting out of the way is only the first step.

As the Business Times witnessed in the Thomas Fire and the Montecito debris flow a month later, larger catastrophic events don’t just have immediate impacts, they have consequences that can last a long time.

The immediate impacts have an adrenaline rush, government agencies and sometimes total strangers come to your aid. There is media coverage to keep the energy level up.

But after the media and first responders leave, there is often a bit of a reckoning. 

Business impacts linger because customers are affected too. Employees can go through family issues, move or become discouraged.

As we learned from reading about the experiences of businesses ranging from small mom and pops to large firms like Patagonia, going through a big emergency can change your perspective. 

You may want to reckon with the longer impacts that climate change is having on your organization or the impact your organization is having on climate change. 

You may want to know how your company can help build a more resilient community and a more resilient supply chain.

Many companies in the region used the experience of the Thomas and Woolsey fires to look at all of these issues and make emergency preparedness a priority. 

Our local governments and nonprofits also looked at ways they could step up — and that really helped with the response to the COVID-19 pandemic when it arrived just a year or two later.

Our area small business support centers, including Women’s Economic Ventures, have taken a lot of steps to help organizations of any size build a more resilient foundation.

As we designed the guide, I learned a lot from David Fukutomi, a wildfire expert who lives in Camarillo and helped us as we prepared to present the guide at the California Wildfire Network Conference at the Reagan Library in September. At the conference, I was impressed by the innovation taking place.

The award-winning network of more than 1020 remote fire detection sensors developed by UC San Diego is at the cutting edge of wildfire early warning. A mini reservoir made out of steel that can be filled with water via an app so that helicopters quickly can load and return to fight a fire impressed me.

Just before we went into production on the Emergency Prep guide, we learned that the hurricane and earthquake that struck near Ojai did millions of damage to the nearby campus of Thomas Aquinas College. 

We wish them well in their journey toward recovery. 

Henry Dubroff is the founder, owner and editor of the Pacific Coast Business Times. He can be reached at hdubroff@pacbiztimes.com.