EL CAJON, Calif. — A small spark in Rancho San Diego turned into a dangerous situation very quickly. Flames raced to the top of the hillside in an El Cajon neighborhood around 10 p.m. Wednesday night destroying a home and damaging six others.
Many homeowners evacuated while others stayed behind to hose down their neighbor’s house. CAL FIRE recommends you do not stay back and safely evacuate.
As prepared as you think you are, when you see flames inching close to your home, you may panic.
“It's kind of in this panic mode and it's like, ‘oh, I did remember to pack my medications, but I forgot all the titles to my house and cars and I forgot my will. And I want to, you know, forgot critical family pictures.' It could be all kinds of things that are become important,” said Karen Baker, Co-chair and architect of Listos California at Cal Office of Emergency Services.
She and a team of 500 volunteers called Social Bridgers are phoning or texting Californians from voter rolls and having one-on-one conversations with residents in high fire areas on how to be prepared for evacuations.
Bridger Mary Pearman shared information from San Diego County Disaster Directory.
“This one older lady said, ‘you know, you talk about a backpack and I don't like backpacks because I can't carry it. 'And I said, 'well, do you have a roller bag?' There you go. And she goes, 'Yeah, I said, well, that's what I use,'’” said Pearman.
The Lakeside volunteer has made calls to the farthest northern California County, Del Norte. Social Bridgers are from across the state and often make calls to six different counties.
“In different counties, though, they do have preparedness challenges, and that's where it's neat to be able to go through and help them with what you need to do,” said Pearman.
These calls are critical as they found only one in four San Diego County residents are registered to receive disaster alerts electronically or by phone.
“We need to get people to go to ReadySanDiego.org. You've got a great communications team that is part of the San Diego County Office of Emergency Services, and they will make sure that you're on that list and get the notification you need,” said Baker.
The California Office of Emergency Services Listos program launched Social Bridgers in the beginning of the pandemic to make wellness calls to seniors, but it has evolved to disaster preparedness calls to Californians. Baker said they’ve made 56,000 calls so far and volunteers are finding both are crucial when there’s fire danger during the pandemic.
“If they're worried about their health and safety and where the next meal is coming from, they're not going to be prepared for disaster,” said Pearman.
To learn more about disaster preparedness click here.