California’s Camp Fire: The Breakdown in .gov Communications in Paradise, CA

They had drilled into people, “don’t evacuate until told to do so,” but most people never heard the order to evacuate, so a lot of them died in their homes or in their cars when they finally decided to stop waiting for the order. Escaping Paradise | California Wildfires: The New Normal. (From ABC 10 out of Sacramento.)

This is a long video – 20 minutes or so. But it is pretty good. And it highlights a couple of important lessons.

So the county (or city) had a plan. Call people via robocalls to tell them to evacuate. They never anticipated evacuating the whole town. The system was overloaded. And then the phone lines started to burn. They never used the Emergency Alert System (radio and TV). They never used the Wireless Alert System (Cellphones). Both of those are run by FEMA, which says no alerts were passed onto them.

The lessons?

First, FEMA says have a radio to listen for instructions from your local authority. But if the local authorities aren’t going to communicate via radio, what the hell is the point? How many of the hand-crank-charged AM/FM/Weather band radios have been sold? Most cellphones include AM/FM radio circuitry – which has been disabled. (Apple and the rest want to sell you their music service, so why provide free music?) If your local authority isn’t going to use EAS or the Wireless alerts, why are we paying for them? (Aside from the fact that it is a .gov jobs program, that is.) This lesson is for the .gov mostly. Use the news media. Use FEMA. That’s why they’re in place. For the rest of us, don’t believe that you always have all of the information. And really, really, don’t place too much trust in the .gov. They’re just as confused as you are.

Second, when you believe your life is in danger, don’t let other people make decisions for you. You’re an adult. Make your own decisions. Don’t follow the herd. I would say also don’t feel guilty that you survived and someone else didn’t, but that is easier said than done.

Finally, when you decide to run, run. Don’t walk. At least for the first part of the journey. Nothing you own is worth your life. And if your instincts are telling you to run, pay attention to the “run” part.

Coda: This is cellphone video of a guy evacuating during the fire. Language warning. He is freaking out because the fire is right on top of him.

And this is a compilation of drone video of the aftermath. Mostly burned structures. It is interesting to see one or two houses standing when everything else in the neighborhood has burned.

2 thoughts on “California’s Camp Fire: The Breakdown in .gov Communications in Paradise, CA

  1. “Second, when you believe your life is in danger, don’t let other people make decisions for you.”

    Abso-freaking-lutely. You want to protect your property, and if you leave #@&* armed agents of the dot gov won’t let you get back to your property “until they say it’s safe,” all of which equates to “don’t leave until it’s absolutely necessary.” Which often means “when it’s too late to get out.”

    Yes, some people will do stupid stuff, some people will act out of ignorance, some people will take unnecessary risks, some people will think they’re safe right until they’re not, etc. The fact remains government cannot be trusted to be fully forthcoming, to not be thoroughly incompetent or stunningly incomplete and erroneous in its communications, or often, to tell the truth even when it actually knows what the truth is.

    Your rear end and those of your family belong to you, it’s your responsiblity to feed all those rear ends, them, clothe them and protect them. All day, every day. Either you run your life or your life runs you.


  2. Pingback: Sometimes a Disaster Overwhelms the Government – Wince and Nod

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