PRESIDIO OF MONTEREY, Calif. (Sept. 23, 2022) — Tom Janis, emergency manager for U.S. Army Garrison Presidio of Monterey, wants to prevent community members from ever having to say, “If only I had …”
September is National Preparedness Month, and the Monterey area faces weather-related threats such as wildfires, storms and floods that make preparedness a year-round necessity. Janis has a wealth of information that can help community members prepare in advance.
“It’s about taking care of you and your family,” Janis said. “You’re going to be on your own for several days while emergency responders are trying to restore basic services and support. When you help yourself, you allow emergency responders to put their efforts on the issues at hand.”
The first helpful action people can take is to register their personal data in the Army’s Alerts! mass warning and notification system, Janis said. The system provides warnings and information when dangers occur. People can also register for alerts from the Monterey County Office of Emergency Services.
Emergency kits for home, vehicles and work are also important, and FEMA has done a great job keeping their information updated, particularly in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Janis said. Find information at https://www.ready.gov/kit.
It is important to know, however, that having a three-day supply of food and water won’t meet your needs in Monterey, Janis said. Here, the standard is seven days.
While people can buy ready-made disaster kits, a cheaper way is to download a checklist and build it with a budget in mind, Janis said.
“Start with the things that you have at home—cellphone chargers, extra cables, cash, first aid kits, bottled water and nonperishable foods,” Janis said. “Don’t forget can openers. If you have pets, make sure you account for their needs.”
Keep the items in a sturdy go-kit along with copies of your important documents if you haven’t stored them digitally in the cloud, Janis said.
Preparation is important because in the last 70 years, Monterey County has experienced an emergency every couple of years that has resulted in a federal disaster declaration, Janis said.
“Service members at the Presidio of Monterey are not from here and they likely don’t understand the threats and hazards present in this region,” Janis said. “It’s my responsibility to inform the public on those dangers so that they can prepare and take appropriate responses.”
In the last five years disasters have become more frequent with wildfires and winter storms, Janis said. Winter storms in Monterey are atmospheric river events that bring damaging winds and torrential rains.
The biggest threat Monterey faces is earthquakes, Janis said. Liquefaction of the soil and structural collapses would likely make it extremely hard to move from location to location to get help. The threat of tsunamis also increases with earthquakes.
“Fortunately, we are in a low-risk area for tsunamis, but the risk remains,” Janis said.
Public safety power shutoffs have dominated emergency responses, so it is important to have a plan, Janis said.
Many people rely on power for their communications, so it is necessary to have a power bank to recharge devices, Janis said. Not only do military personnel have to keep their chain of command informed, it is also necessary to stay aware of threats and emerging news.
For those who rely on medical equipment, a backup power source is critical, Janis said.
Normally the power company restores power within 24 hours of a storm passing, Janis said.
People also need to know evacuation routes in case wild-land fires result in ordered evacuations, Janis said. “Growing up in hurricane prone areas teaches that lesson,” he said. “Highways quickly become parking lots and you don’t want to be stuck there.”
It is also a good idea for parents to involve children in preparation efforts, Janis said.
“Kids are resilient, but they need support,” Janis said. “Sitting down with kids and explaining your disaster or emergency plan is important. It lets them know that their parents will be there for them when things get scary.”
Children and teens also want to help, so it is a good idea to have a conversation and discuss the before, during and after plans with family members, Janis said. Families should establish a communication plan, and if necessary, rehearse it. Have them keep a copy of the plan somewhere they won’t forget it.
Janis said he encourages members of the Presidio of Monterey community to talk to people who have lived in the area for years and understand the hazards and threats.
“Their experiences can help you prepare for the worst-case scenarios,” Janis said. “You don’t want or need to live those circumstances to motivate your preparedness. Whatever you expect will not match the severity of the situation but preparing now may save you from the hardship later.”
For more information, contact Janis at (831) 242-3982.