What If California Faces a Disaster During the Coronavirus Pandemic?

Jacquie Cadorette
April 12, 2020 - 10:46 am

    California has evacuation plans in place just in case an earthquake, flood, mudslide, or wildfire hits, but what's the plan if something happens while everyone is being urged to stay at home amid the coronavirus pandemic? 

    Evacuations would mean hundreds of people in close quarters in shelters. State and local officials are working towards a solution should a natural disaster hit while people are being urged to stay away from each other, NBC Los Angeles reports.

    "That's something that's being looked at, but it's challenging," California Office of Emergency Services' spokesman Brian Ferguson said. 

    Meanwhile, longtime fire and rescue chiefe for the emergency services agency, Kim Zagaris, has come out of retirement to help with the planning. "One of the basic premises is to plan and be prepared for all types and kind of emergencies. We're disaster-prone, so you have to be prepared for multiple things at multiple times," he said. 

    However, while officials scramble to come up with a plan, there seems to be a lack of understanding around whose job it actually is. 

    Zagaris believes it's in the hands of the local authorities while local authorities are directing questions to Zagaris' agency. 

    "This is a complicated issue and each jurisdiction is likely looking at their own policies and resources," executive director of the California Emergency Services Association Andrea Casillas said in an email. 

    While California is experiencing wet conditions currently, the soon-to-arrive dry and warmer weather could bring a threat of wildfires, which would require people to evacuate. 

    CalFire spokesman Scott McLean said he will urge residents to still adhere to CDC guidelines in the event of an evacuation as best they can. This means continuing to keep a distance, wear protective gear, and wash hands regularly. 

    Officials will likely need more shelters to house the same amount of people in an effort to keep them at a distance from one another.