Chief’s Corner: Disasters can strike Lake Tahoe Basin, be prepared

September is National Preparedness Month which reminds everyone to prepare themselves, their families and their communities for disasters that could happen. This year's theme is: "Disasters Happen. Prepare Now. Learn How."

So how can you prepare for a disaster? First, it's important to be informed and stay informed. There are many different emergency notification systems that you can enroll in the area that you reside.

A great resource is Nixle, which will forward you alerts from your local agencies regarding severe weather, criminal activities, severe traffic and other important messages. You can sign up by texting your zip code to 888777. Research and sign up for what notification systems are available for your specific area.

It is very important to make sure you and your family have an emergency plan and that you have practiced it. There are a number of resources available online with great information on what to include in your plan — has a great selection of information and assistance.

When making your plan, consider the specific people and needs in your household, such as infants, elderly, disabled, as well as indoor and outdoor pets. While making your emergency plan, go over basic fire safety with your family.

Check to make sure the smoke and carbon monoxide detectors in your home are working and teach your children what to do if they go off. Make sure that you know how to use a fire extinguisher. The easy way to remember is to PASS it: pull (the safety pin), aim (at the base of the flames), squeeze (the handle), sweep (back and forth).

Teach your children how to call 911, when they should, and what information they will need to pass on to the operator, especially your home address.

Make sure that you have emergency kits stocked with basic supplies in your home, office and car. It's imperative that you have enough water and food to last each person in your family at least three days, as well as a battery-powered radio, flashlight, first aid kit and extra batteries.

It's also a good idea to have your important documents, such as passports, account numbers and contact phone numbers in an easily accessible place. You can find a comprehensive list of items you need at

Lastly, check your insurance coverage. If disaster strikes, having the proper insurance policy is the best way to ensure that you will be able to repair, rebuild and replace anything that is damaged.

Maintaining a detailed inventory of your family's belongings will help you if a disaster strikes. You can take photos or videos to help you record your belongings, but be sure to also write down descriptions, including year, make and model numbers. Be sure to store your inventory somewhere it can be easily accessed after a disaster.

Allen Riley is fire chief at Squaw Valley Fire Department.

Chief’s Corner: Wildland fire outlook for Lake Tahoe

As we start to see and feel the change in the seasons, it is time to prepare for the potential wildfire season. April showers bring May flowers, time to take off the snow tires and get out the rake!

While a wet March helped get us to refill the lake and salvage the ski season, it only supplied the state with nearly 50 percent of normal for the yearly snow pack. Despite the wet spring, the entire region has a substantial precipitation deficit.

It is expected that the live fuels in our area will peak out at lower than average live fuel moisture reading and decline sooner than normal, reaching critical values for wildfire activity earlier than most years.

The June forecasted weather is for dry and warm conditions, therefore it is expected that fire activity will ramp up, and this represents an earlier start than average by a few weeks. For more fire weather forecast information, visit the Northern California Geographic Coordination Center website at

The local fire departments rely on the homeowners and the public to help prevent life and property losses from wildland fires. We accomplish this through public cooperation and enforcement of California's defensible space laws. The local fire departments will be out doing defensible space inspections early this year, and we encourage you to do your yard clean up sooner than later!

These laws are designed to help firefighters protect your home during a wildland fire and most importantly, help your home stand alone when firefighting resources are limited. For more information on defensible space visit the Ready for Wildfire website at

For those landowners of vacant lots, Placer County has enacted a "Hazardous Vegetation Abatement on Unimproved Parcels" program. The purpose of the program is to ensure that the owners of these lots do their part in hazardous vegetation abatement. The ordinance (Placer County Code Chapter 9, Article 9.32, Part 4) allows the County of Placer to authorize the abatement. The code can be viewed at

The Eastern Regional Landfill works with all the local agencies with Community Green Waste Drop Off Events, and some of the fire districts offer a chipping program. Contact your local fire department to find more info for your area. If you are taking down adult sized trees, keep in mind that you may be required to obtain a permit from the county your home is in and, if you live in the Tahoe Basin, from the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency and/or your local fire department.

Our goal is to keep our community lean, clean and green! We want to increase public awareness so that we have another fun, smoke-free summer. So, please get your properties in compliance early this year and maintain it until the fall moisture arrives.

Allen Riley is the fire chief at the Squaw Valley Fire Department.