Full-scale evacuation drill held for community in Sonoma County

It was a calm Saturday in Sonoma County, but for some it felt like an emergency situation, “I ran the dog to the car and got out on the road,” said Jonathan Pearlman. He participated in Sonoma County’s second emergency evacuation drill.

Saturday’s drill focused on the Mill Creek neighborhood, a high risk area with one road in and out and heavy vegetation.

43 households in the neighborhood signed up for the two hour event, “It is important to practice these drills so everybody knows to get our as quickly as possible and how they’re going to go and where they’re going to go,” said emergency coordinator, Sam Wallis.

Just after 8am, alerts went out and high low sirens blared from Sonoma County Sheriff’s cars throughout Mill Creek. Residents evacuated and went to the Healdsburg Community Center where they were met by Red Cross and county leaders.

The drill was planned after the 2017 North Bay fires ravaged communities and left many confused about what to do during a disaster.

“Our community was very loud about wanting to not only have more out of us, but also prepare themselves,” said Sonoma County Supervisor, James Gore.

It’s not just about wildfires though. Any major issue in the county is less hectic with a good emergency plan, “We just went through the public safety power shut down with PG&E. 40% of our population for three days or more, I mean significant event right? So the good thing is this is not just about an exercise, but about a culture of preparedness,” said Gore. 

It’s all a learning experience. After the drill, organizers heard from residents about things to change in the future and more advanced ways to prepare. Getting a satellite phone and an NOAA radio are two ideas thrown around.

Overall, the drill was a success, “That’s kind of the biggest piece for me is staying calm and being able to grab everything not trying to figure it out when you get that Nixle alert,” said Pearlman.

The next drill will be for the Fitch Mountain neighborhood on November 2nd.