Wildfires, Earthquakes, Civil Unrest… Are You Prepared?


Chief Sam DiGiovanna

Photo courtesy Landon Jensen.

September is National Preparedness Month, and in California, we certainly have no shortage of disasters to plan for — Covid-19, wildfires, earthquakes, flash floods, civil unrest, active shooters; you name it, we see it. We have a responsibility to prepare our communities.

Before we get into preparing our communities, I ask this question: How prepared are you personally? Your family? What happens if you are at work and a major incident happens? Are they prepared? Most importantly, how prepared are you mentally when dealing with crisis and disasters? We train for them and are very proficient at what we do. But are you prepared mentally? Strengthening Wellness During Times of Crisis is a great webinar by Dr. David Black of Cordico and Gordon Graham:


Please take the time to listen and share with these in your organization. If you are not prepared physically and mentally – you are unfit for duty.

Whether natural or human-caused, disasters always challenge fire departments, testing our policies, procedures, resources, and our mental strength. Helping our community members prepare can make things just a little bit easier. Following are some things to consider when you are building public service announcements and other messages to your community.

Do your citizens know how your department pushes out information in the event of a disaster? You might be sharing information by the minute on Twitter or Facebook, but if your community is not following you, your efforts are for naught. Decide how you are going to communicate, then determine whether you need to spread the word to gain more followers. You can also encourage your community members to sign up for Twitter and text alerts from FEMA and other trusted government agencies.

Are your citizens prepared to evacuate their pets? Increasingly, our dogs, cats, birds — even pigs and chickens — are considered members of the family. Too many people have ignored evacuation orders because they do not know how to get their pets to safety, and they are not willing to leave them behind. You can argue all day long against this mindset — or you can work ahead of time to help your community members prepare. Encourage them to practice getting pets quickly into carriers. Provide lists of supplies they should stock with their personal disaster kit, such as a collapsible water bowl, pet food and extra medicine if their pets require it. Community members who own or house large animals, such as horses, should keep addresses of common evacuation sites (such as campgrounds and fairgrounds) and should be educated about the necessity of evacuating them very early (if possible) due to the logistics involved.

Do your citizens know where to go to get up-to-date information on fire danger or weather-related hazards? The USGS has collected a lot of great resources on their National Preparedness Month page. Your residents can view past, current and forecasted hazards along the coasts; the Fire Danger Forecast, which is a dynamic map updated daily; and the latest earthquake activity.

Are your citizens properly protecting and preparing their financial documents? Having to evacuate or losing one’s home due to water or fire damage is traumatic, but it can be even more damaging for those who have not taken steps to safeguard important documents such as financial and medical documentation. The Department of Homeland Security offers resources to help community members and provides advice on how to properly store them so they can be retrieved if originals or hard copies are destroyed.

Do you see a theme here?

Being resilient in the face of disaster requires thoughtful planning and preparedness. While it is ultimately each citizen’s responsibility to prepare, we as firefighters have access to resources and information to help our community members get started. And when they’re prepared, our disaster response is much more effective.

For more resources, including weekly themes, graphics, videos and sample PSAs, visit www.ready.gov/september.

For personal health and wellbeing visit www.Cordico.com

About Chief Sam DiGiovanna

Sam DiGiovanna is a 33-year fire service veteran. He started with the Los Angeles County Fire Department, served as fire chief at the Monrovia Fire Department and currently serves as chief at the Verdugo Fire Academy in Glendale, Calif. In addition, he is a regular contributor to NBC News 4 Los Angeles.  Sam also serves as Executive Vice President of Fire Operations at CORDICO INC.