Ojai evacuation plan underway

Grant Phillips

Ojai Valley News reporter

Ojai City Council voted unanimously on March 8 to authorize staff to draft an Evacuation and Area Refuge Plan— the first ever for the city of Ojai.

“I just want to thank city staff, specifically City Manager James Vega, for accomplishing what was called ‘impossible,’” said Mayor Betsy Stix. “Ojai’s getting an evacuation plan.”
The first step will include staff meetings with stakeholders, including the Ventura County Sheriff’s Department and Fire Department, the Community Emergency Response Team, Ojai Valley Fire Safe Council, Ventura County Red Cross, Ojai Valley Community Hospital, Ojai Valley News and several other organizations.
“There will be several opportunities for feedback as the plan develops,” said Vega. “If people do identify other stakeholders, we’d be happy to hear them and include them in the plans.”
The plan is based roughly on the city of Malibu’s evacuation plan, which outlines key protocols for residents including city evacuation procedures, notifications, evacuation routes, phone numbers for key help and assistance, shelter locations, information for pets and large animals, and interagency communications among other elements.
“It is a very simple plan,” said Vega. “It’s high-level evacuation information that is useful as a simple guide to the public during these emergency situations.”
The plan was originally proposed and moved forward by the Ojai Disaster Council at its Jan. 26 meeting.

“One of the reasons why this is possible right now is because of the partnership with recently retired Fire Chief John McNeil,” said Vega. “He’s volunteered to work with us closely to move this project forward.”
An evacuation map featuring shelter locations will also be included in the plan.
“With the earthquake swarms that we’ve had lately, it’s a pressing reminder that there’s more than one type of disaster,” said Councilmember Ryan Blatz. “I think it’s important as we work through this, we really need to consider multiple different types of emergencies.”
Updates will be provided to the community throughout the formation of the plan.
“There’s ways of communicating and practicing what we’re developing, so when it does happen, we know exactly what we need to do,” said Mayor Pro Tem Randy Haney. “How to do it, where to do it, when to do it and why to do it.”

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