News

Ojai readies for next emergency

web Screen Shot 2021 05 20 at 11.39.42 AM
Map by Ojai Valley News
The red pins on this map show the 16 congregate shelters in the Ojai Valley. Click here to view the interactive map of potential Ojai Valley shelter locations: https://j.mp/3oGKuKn

  

Austin Widger, Ojai Valley News reporter
The city of Ojai will partner with the Ojai Police Department, Ventura County Fire Department, and others to hold an Emergency Preparedness Day on May 27. 
The city will launch a new Emergency Preparedness webpage, prepare television, radio, and online messages, and schedule demonstrations. 
Residents are reminded that their first step in preparing for an emergency is to register to receive emergency notifications from the county-operated VC Alert Emergency Notification by visiting www.vcalert.org. Emergency information is also available at www.vcemergency.com.
Nearly four years after thousands of Ojai Valley residents fled the Thomas Fire, county and local officials are also working on a new Ventura County Emergency Operations Plan.
The public is invited to review the draft Emergency Operations Plan at www.VCEmergency.com (click on the 2021 “EOP Update” link at the top of the page).
The Ojai Disaster Council gave the new plan high marks at its March 24 meeting.
Ojai City Manager James Vega said city officials’ concerns about the previous emergency plan have been addressed.
The new plan designates where people in the Ojai Valley can find shelter in an emergency.
It also delegates responsibility among agencies. Vega said the new plan makes it clear that the county is responsible for the unincorporated area and cities are responsible for their jurisdictions.
“The plan states that a key and a priority is pre-disaster education,” Vega said. “You can’t educate people during the middle of an emergency very well. So I thought that was worth highlighting …. Getting the outreach and the information out beforehand is key.”
Vega added that the plan has information on how police, fire and city agencies interact and coordinate through the county incident command system. The county then coordinates with the state.
Vega said: “It’s a lot of information. I didn’t see anything of concern. I don’t have a recommendation to submit any public comment or any opposition to anything.”
Patrick Maynard, Ventura County Sheriff’s Office of Emergency Services director, told the Ojai Valley News that Temporary Evacuation Points throughout the county are used for staging during the pandemic. 
Nordhoff High School, 1401 Maricopa Highway, is the city of Ojai’s Temporary Evacuation Point.
When asked about the locations of congregate shelters in Oak View and Upper Ojai, Maynard provided them to the Ojai Valley News, but said: “We do not advertise shelter locations in advance because we do not want people showing up at locations that are not equipped for sheltering. At the onset of an incident, we will make a determination on which location is best geographically suited to handle the evacuees and publicize that information accordingly on our emergency messages and website.”
Vega said other options the city has considered for sheltering in the event of a fire are green spaces such as Soule Park or Sarzotti Park. He said that is something county government officials are still reviewing. 

Possible evacuation centers
In the event of an evacuation, depending on the emergency, people will be directed first to Nordhoff High School and then to one of the eight Red Cross shelters in the Ojai, Meiners Oaks and Mira Monte areas, and seven in Oak View. The Red Cross shelter locations could change based on the circumstances of the emergency and available resources.
They are:
    • Nordhoff High School 
    • Mira Monte School
    • Meiners Oaks Elementary
    • Matilija Junior High
    • St. Andrews Episcopal Church
    • Chaparral High School
    • Topa Topa Elementary
    • San Antonio Elementary
    • Summit Elementary
    • Montessori School of Ojai
    • Forest Home Ministries
    • Oak View Community Center
    • Oak View Park and Recreation Center
    • Sunset School
    • Rancho Arnaz Center
    • Casitas Springs Community Center