Day 1 of the Woolsey Fire taken from Warner Center.
One of the most important ways you can help is by making sure you are prepared. The easiest ways to start is by packing a ‘go bag’ for you and your family that will last a few days as well as create an emergency plan. As for the go bag, some of the things to keep in mind can be found here.
When talking with your family about an emergency plan, here are some things to keep in mind:
During the Woolsey Fire, Blumenfield and his BobCAT welcomed hundreds of volunteers to his District Office to help organize and dispatch 100,000 lbs of donated goods to evacuees throughout the West Valley.
Blumenfield regularly opens up his District Office for CERT Training taught by LAFD.
Blumenfield’s BobCAT on Emergency Preparedness is made of up of a group of community volunteers with expertise on keeping our community safe when disaster strikes. A decade ago, when Blumenfield served in the State Assembly, he brought together folks who shared his passion for emergency preparedness to develop training and protocols for how to better deal with future emergencies. Since then Blumenfield and BobCAT chairs Nathan Wolfstein and Jaime Pelligrini have been working with groups from the Boy Scouts to Rotary Clubs teaching community members how they can be better prepared as well as working with the City of Los Angeles and surrounding municipalities on disaster preparedness legislation and action.
In Blumenfield’s District Office, Nathan, Jaime and other BobCAT volunteers have created an emergency center of operations with everything from HAM radios, to first aid, to rations of all types. In the parking lot we have secure Volunteer Point of Distribution pods (VPOD) filled with even more goods for any type of emergency that hits.
Blumenfield with his BobCAT leadership in their warehouse during the Saddleridge Fire.
The BobCAT assists in several ways- the prep, the immediate aftermath, and the recovery. They work hand in hand with Blumenfield’s staff. In addition to helping residents prepare for emergencies, they are ready to lead and assist the Red Cross, other nonprofits, and governmental agencies moments after a disaster. They have several large warehouses in the West Valley which are now filled with donated and bartered goods ready to be delivered whenever and where ever needed. They have an established nonprofit arm- Community Outreach Promoting Emergency Preparedness (COPE). And now, after several years, their nonprofit is officially contracted to serve the entire city.
During the Woolsey Fire in 2018, once they deployed existing supplies to evacuation center throughout the West Valley, the BobCAT led community volunteers in over 100,000 pounds of goods including pet foods, diapers, energy bars, canned foods as well as necessities for our firefighters like Visine and sunscreen. Many aid workers told Blumenfield’s team that the outpouring of community support was unprecedented and that they were overwhelmed by how much love that was showed to neighbors in need. But, if the protocols weren’t in place to collect and get the donations to the evacuees, the effort would not have been successful.
After the Woolsey fire Blumenfield said, “People used to question my sanity for having warehouses full of emergency supplies and a community action team dedicated to keeping the supplies fresh and accessible. While this crisis may not have proved my sanity, it did prove the tremendous value of the BobCAT, its members, and their mission.”
Blumenfield meeting with volunteers and evacuees during the Woolsey Fire.
Inside on of the BobCAT's warehouses.
A truck filled with donated goods ready to go to evacuated Angelenos.
In 1994 our city was rocked by the Northridge Earthquake, a 6.7 magnitude quake that left behind a staggering aftermath of 57 deaths, 9,000 injuries and more than $20 billion in damage. It was one of those experiences where anyone who experienced it remembers exactly where they were. It seared into my consciousness the importance of emergency preparedness and is the reason why this has been one of my top priorities since the first day I was elected to public office.
When the quake hit, I was working for Congressman Howard Berman and I vividly remember the devastation and heartache our community faced. I remember that his district office was red-tagged and we had to set up shop in the old San Fernando jail, so we could hand out supplies and water to constituents in need while coordinating a massive relief effort involving every level of government. I spent the next year working with Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), Small Business Administration (SBA) and other agencies to help Valley residents recover and get assistance they needed. The earthquake forced us to become a better prepared city for any and all natural disasters we might face in the future.
I also remember the difficulty we had getting the massive $14 billion aid package approved by Congress- at the time there was a fight about ‘offsets’ that could have severely reduced the amount of funds that would come to our region. While we avoided the prediction that the San Fernando Valley would become a ghost town, victims of Hurricane Katrina were not as lucky and the government was far less effective.
Fires, floods and earthquakes can happen at any time with no warning, especially with climate change making our summers hotter, droughts more severe, and horrible fires more likely. In 2018, and the recent 2019 fires, we saw incredible devastation and how storms can cause mudslides and flooding throughout the region. The Woolsey and Hill fires burned approximately 70,000 acres and about 250,000 people were evacuated in total. Overnight evacuees were told to leave their homes and many were housed in my district at locations such as Taft High School, Pierce College, and Canoga Park High School. Also several hundred animals from horses to dogs to turtles had to be rescued.
It didn’t matter that the bulk of the fire was not in the City of Los Angeles. The fire didn’t recognize City boundaries, so my staff and I joined countless volunteers and put boots on the ground to help the victims. Just like the Northridge Earthquake, we saw that a vast amount of Angelenos were under-prepared for emergencies. The ‘Big One’ shouldn’t be treated like a hypothetical- it’s not if, it’s when.
Councilmember Bob Blumenfield