Even during regular commute times, Monterey County roads get backed up with traffic. So it’s easy to imagine gridlock during an emergency. That’s why the county is working on a regional evacuation plan.
At the Office of Emergency Services, or OES, in Salinas, Emergency Services Planner Patrick Moore flips through a large binder. Inside are evacuation plans for other California communities.
“This is the Sacramento plan,” Moore says.
Moore is using these as templates to create a Monterey County evacuation plan.
“We need to have a plan as to how we're going to handle a large number of people transitioning out of an area, whether it's all at once, staged etc. So it's better to have the plan now than try… you don't want to invent one when the emergency is happening,” Moore said.
The plan will also include detailed maps with evacuation routes, address where emergency shelters could go and figure out how best to communicate with residents.
OES Manager Gerry Malais said even when there’s a community evacuation plan in place, residents still have to look out for themselves.
“The best protection for them is to maintain situational awareness of what's happening in their community and rapidly evacuate, you know, before they get bottlenecked into small roads and situations where the fire is already on them and they're trying to leave,” Malais said.
Malais says the best way for people to receive emergency notifications is through Alert Monterey County. He’d like to see more people sign up.
“In a county of almost 500,000 people, we have less than 100,000 signed up for Alert Monterey, which is an opt in service, I get it. If we could even just get 50 percent of the public,” said Malais.
The regional evacuation plan is in its early stages. Right now it’s about pulling together the dozens of agencies involved, from traffic engineers to first responders. OES expects it will take most of the year to finish the regional evacuation plan.