A resident goes through personal belongings in a parking lot next to a fire damaged Arby's restaurant on October 9, 2017 in Santa Rosa, California.

At least 15 people are reported dead due to the 16 fires raging across Northern California. The fires have burned over 100,000 acres and over 2,000 homes and structures. In this segment, we talk to a panel of experts about disaster preparedness and tools for communication during an emergency. And we would like to hear from you: what questions do you have about preparing for a disaster?

Barry Pilger,
lost his home in the Oakland Hills fires in 1991; served on Citizens Advisory Committee of the Wildfire Prevention Assessment District
Paul Rogers, managing editor, KQED Science
Sarah Reith, reporter, KZYZ
Lise Ann St-Denis, research scientist, University of Colorado, Boulder
Kevin Van Leer, Wildfire Product Manager, RMS

More Information:

How to Prepare for a Disaster 17 October,2017Michael Krasny

  • Noelle

    Sounds like it would be a good idea to keep landline phones.

    • goodsam73

      I kept mine just so I would be able to communicate but AT+T does not make it cheap — about $24/mo once you add in all the taxes

    • Robert Thomas

      And keep a traditional phone to plug in that’s powered by Tip and Ring (your landline twisted pair), that doesn’t require an 120VAC service in order to operate. Recall that telephone landlines may fail due to fire damage, too. But I’m not giving up my landline (and not just because cell service is lousy in my home, which it is).

  • Bruce Baum

    Remember spotty cell service and loss of power to recharge you need to update your cell phone message to advise that you are OK and where you will be.

  • pm05

    I was in a tornado – the wind blew the sound away – never heard them.

  • Robert Thomas

    As long as there’s oxygen in the storage cavity, there’s no such thing as a fire-proof container.

  • Sar Wash

    For current, up to the minute, evacuation notices, text your ZIP code to 888777. The notifications are very useful and accurate.

    • practiCalfMRI

      This. Then the two maps I’ve been cross referencing – since they frequently disagree – are:




      For the latter, compare the views with the Fire Detection layer on but the Fire Perimeters layer off and on, to separate older info from the potential current fire front. Note that both maps rely on satellite data that may be 6-8 hours old, so this is NOT REAL TIME. Cross referencing the two is essential, then compare with third party information such as real time traffic on Google maps, which includes some (but not all) road closures depicted with NO ENTRY icons. Assume no data on a road means that road is closed.

      Have been using these methods to advise family in Glen Ellen, El Verano, Bennett Valley and east Sonoma for the past two days and so far have managed to make calls 12 hours in advance, so will gladly try to answer questions here as best I can. Have been tracking the progress of Atlas & Tubbs fires just to keep the bigger picture.

      • Sar Wash

        511.org has a complete list of road closures along with transit agency closures and modifications (including SMART, Golden Gate Transit, Sonoma County Transit, VINE, etc.). As of today, SC Transit and SMART are operating for free, although on a reduced schedule.

      • Sar Wash

        What are you hearing about Fetters Hot Springs and Agua Caliente and the potential threat to the City of Sonoma?

        • practiCalfMRI

          Looks like Nuns and Partrick fires are converging north of Sonoma, NE of Hot Springs. You’ll have seen the advisory evac for north Sonoma and Boyes Hot Springs. Provided the winds don’t come in strong from the N or NE – so far so good – it looks like the fires will remain in the hills a couple miles from the towns. But smart to do the voluntary evac now because as it gets dark the winds will also be strengthening, much harder to do a mandatory evac overnight with short notice. No hard intel, this is personal opinion, but I assume Cal Fire will be driving these two fires together while the low winds hold. All my family & friends have departed this region (east Sonoma, El Verano) but I would tell them to hose down the house and scoot now, if they were still there. That said, I’m less worried about this region than some others. If anything changes with this situation I’ll post here.

    • practiCalfMRI

      Another source that has proved useful is the twitter feed, @CountyofSonoma. This tends to fill in the information gaps, and repeats useful info, between Nixle warnings.

  • Sar Wash

    The City has an excellent siren network which is tested every Tuesday at noon.

  • Robert Thomas

    Why are FM-radio emergency service announcements nearly unintelligible? At least three times over our last rainy winter, I heard federal and state flood announcements that could barely be understood against a background of noise. What entity is responsible for this failure?

  • Un Yung Song

    Cal fire has a map that is updated regularly. Google has an hourly wind forecast. Solano County Sheriff’s office Facebook page updates regularly. Listen to your local radio station. Everyone who lives here knows how quickly the wind shifts and how strong they are. Be prepared to leave. At worst we’ll have to evacuate, at best we now have an emergency survival kit.

    • practiCalfMRI

      I’ve found the Cal Fire map, http://www.fire.ca.gov/general/firemaps, to be useful for a bigger picture but is most useful when cross-referenced to more detailed maps I linked to in an earlier response.

      Good weather with options for wind dir/speed, visible satellite (for smoke) and all current weather advisories & warnings on Wunderground app on a smart phone.

  • Robert Thomas

    My sister recently evacuated from Fort Myers Florida to Montgomery Alabama during Hurricane Irma. She uses a “flip” phone and has stubbornly refused to use a smart cell phone. She relied successfully on friends and family across the nation to help her and her pets along her seven-day, 1,200-mile round trip journey.

    Now that she’s back in her (mostly) undamaged home, you can bet that her “extended community” has urged her to reconsider her exclusive attachment to AAA maps and Morse code.

    • goodsam73

      what’s wrong with using a MAP when reliance on smart phone only works if the signals are good — technology only gets you as far as a signal and/or your phone battery will take you

      • practiCalfMRI

        Agreed. Get a paper map for your car.

        • Robert Thomas

          A map of what? You’re presumably familiar with the major arteries in your own region. If you had to evacuate your home along with tens of thousands of others, all seeking accommodation, to you don’t know precisely where, maybe five or six hundred miles in an unpredictable direction – what fold-up map, exactly, would you keep in the glove box, in preparation? If you’re fleeing natural disaster, you should flee to some place unaffected by the catastrophe. My sister had good cell connection during her whole journey precisely because she left her home before the storm arrived. Thank goodness for the modern amenities of Google and Apple maps and so forth – that’s what everyone on I-10 other than my sister was saying.

          • practiCalfMRI

            For this incident, yes, your local area. Say county. Then use everything at your disposal. If the cell coverage goes out, rely on the map rather than your memory. Then bear in mind landmarks may be unrecognizable in the dark in a firestorm, so navigate turn by turn, ideally one person tracing the current location on the map. This is a backup for all the modern navigation kit, just as good sailors still practice with a sextant in case satellites go down and they’re far from shore.

        • Sar Wash

          Hard to beat a national road atlas as well as more detailed state atlases as needed. Phone mapping apps are notoriously unreliable and send many drivers in the wrong direction, and of course do not work at all outside of an area with strong and reliable cell service.

      • Robert Thomas

        How many maps do you have on hand? Not counting her USGS topo-map collection, my sister had about seventy regional road maps – she’s lived in Boise ID: Gloversville NY; Rapid City, SD; Arlington VA; Barre VT; Portland OR and Gelnhausen, Hessen, Germany. She had road maps for Georgia, the Carolinas and Mississippi but no maps of Alabama. By the Wednesday before Irma, no one in Ft Myers or Cape Coral had an Alabama map; her AAA office closed the next day. She was finally able to get an Alabama map in Dothan, two-thirds of the way to Montgomery.

        Maps are good. My sister loves maps. I now insist she agree to use a smart phone, with access to a map application – and no argument. The whole map argument that she and I had is over.


Michael Krasny

Michael Krasny, PhD, has been in broadcast journalism since 1983. He was with ABC in both radio and television and migrated to public broadcasting in 1993. He has been Professor of English at San Francisco State University and also taught at Stanford, the University of San Francisco and the University of California, as well as in the Fulbright International Institutes. A veteran interviewer for the nationally broadcast City Arts and Lectures, he is the author of a number of books, including “Off Mike: A Memoir of Talk Radio and Literary Life” (Stanford University Press) “Spiritual Envy” (New World); “Sound Ideas” (with M.E. Sokolik/ McGraw-Hill); “Let There Be Laughter” (Harper-Collins) as well as the twenty-four lecture series in DVD, audio and book, “Short Story Masterpieces” (The Teaching Company). He has interviewed many of the world’s leading political, cultural, literary, science and technology figures, as well as major figures from the world of entertainment. He is the recipient of many awards and honors including the S.Y. Agnon Medal for Intellectual Achievement; The Eugene Block Award for Human Rights Journalism; the James Madison Freedom of Information Award; the Excellence in Journalism Award from the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association; Career Achievement Award from the Society of Professional Journalists and an award from the Radio and Television News Directors Association. He holds a B.A. (cum laude) and M.A. from Ohio University and a PhD from the University of Wisconsin.

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