n an article in the January 2019 issue of Bear Tracks, I wrote about efforts being made to assess all routes leading out of Bear Valley for their viability as evacuation routes during disasters and other major occurrences. I talked about how results of that assessment confirmed what was already suspected, that NO route other than Bear Valley Road can be assumed dependable and safe during a crisis.
Staff assessed five routes - Pinedale, El Rancho, Sheeptrail, Deertrail, and Skyline. The first three, Pinedale, El Rancho, and Sheeptrail, proved to be completely unviable…and dangerous. Deertrail and Skyline were not without concerns. Lack of signage, locked gates, narrow passageways, and other problems make it highly unlikely these routes would be used as a means of evacuating parts of the Valley during an emergency. Not impossible, just highly unlikely.
Those were the findings when results of the road assessment study were presented to members of the Public Safety Committee on February 28th. Present were representatives from the Kern County Fire Department, the Disaster Preparedness Advisory Council (DPAC), the Citizen’s Emergency Response Team (CERT), the Bear Valley Police Department, and the Bear Valley CSD.
So, what is the take-away from this study?
Your public safety team has learned a great deal from our Valley’s history of major wildland fires. Though detailed Emergency Response Plans are written, reviewed, and periodically revised, all events are different. One likely option for emergency personnel during a disaster is to direct residents to evacuate to safe rallying points within the Valley floor, sometimes called ‘Refuge Points’. These are areas where resources can be quickly set up to support and protect large numbers of residents and vehicles while emergency personnel address the threat.
Where are these areas?
This would depend on the particular incident, but areas like the baseball field, Cub Lake, RC model air field, the golf course, and other potential areas have been identified and assessed.
How will I know where to go in case of a disaster or major occurrence?
This is where being signed up for Code Red and ReadyKern is imperative. It is through these emergency communication channels that evacuated residents will learn where to go, which may include a Refuge area within the lower Valley, Bear Valley Road out the Gate, or, if necessary, Deertrail or Skyline may be used once verified as passable by emergency personnel.
For those who wish to get involved in emergency preparedness or have questions about the process of emergency planning, the Public Safety Committee meets the 3rd Thursday of even-numbered months, and the DPAC meets the 2nd Monday of every month.
Tim Melanson, Chief of Police