Wilson Warns Residents about Natural Disasters

Long-time Palisades resident John Wilson was all smiles before addressing the seriousness of disaster preparedness at a recent Rotary meeting.

Be Prepared for Disasters

What if Santa Ana winds help fuel a brush fire that is headed towards Pacific Palisades and a 7.0 earthquake occurs in the Los Angeles area?

John Wilson, a life-long resident and former Santa Monica College professor, spoke on the subject at a recent Rotary Club meeting.

“A natural disaster is something we can’t control, and resources the community can’t control,” said Wilson, who explained how the above scenario is actually one that emergency services have speculated about and prepared for.

“At the beginning of this October, we had 4.7 inches of rain in 2018,” said Wilson, who was a Deputy L.A. City Attorney (1971-1994). “It’s the fourth driest year in 31 years.”

He gave some statistics from recent natural disasters, such as 1) hurricanes and storms are becoming more severe because of the warm ocean temperatures around the world.  Santa Monica Bay had one of the warmest ocean temperatures (68.2 degrees) it has had in recent history. 2) Floods and tsunamis are becoming deadlier. After an earthquake spawned a tsunami in Indonesia, more than 800 people were killed. 3) Earthquakes such as the September Japanese quake, caused loss of electrical power and landslides, which engulfed houses.

“There is one zip code in California (94301—Palo Alto and the Silicon Valley) that provides 90 percent of the money that the state operates on,” Wilson said. “If that center would be destroyed, what happens to the rest of the state?”

Wilson then asked, if a natural disaster or disasters were to strike Pacific Palisades, would residents be prepared?

The wildfire season, which used to start in October, now lasts all year. Wilson said that the City covers more than 503 miles, yet the fire department has only four helicopters, 92 engine companies and 140 ambulances. The police department has 10,000 officers and 22 stations. Those resources won’t be enough to help the Palisades if a fire and earthquake happen at the same time.

Experts are predicting a major earthquake in this area could result in 50,000 to 60,000 injuries. “After the last earthquake [1994], a bacteria was released that blew over the Palisades and resulted in an upper respiratory illness,” Wilson said.

If the earthquake/fire scenario would occur, people in Pacific Palisades might be stuck. “Can’t get in, can’t get out,” Wilson warned. “If you have to evacuate, where do you go? Sunset will be blocked, PCH will be blocked.”

There are numerous schools in the Palisades. “There will be hundreds of parents that will descend on schools,” Wilson said, and this would add to the stand-still traffic.

He urged people to “Learn where an emergency center may be set up” (Palisades High School is a designated Red Cross Center) and to “pick out spots you can go and feel safe.”

One person said she planned to take her family’s animals and go to the beach if there’s a major brush fire.

Wilson warned, “During the Malibu fire, people went to the beach and were getting burned from the heat of the flames. Boats had to be brought in to rescue them.”

Wilson, who is a Scout leader said it could take a week or more before FEMA could make it to the Palisades. He reminded people that during the 1992 Los Angeles riots, hundreds of people cleaned out grocery stores. He said that he has found in any emergency, people worry first about themselves and then their families.

“Do we really care about anyone else?” he asked hypothetically. “Not really.”

Palisades residents should not expect immediate help from the City if there is a disaster. If unable to evacuate to an emergency center, residents should have food and water for at least a week. Most likely there will be no electricity (cell phones and some cars will not work).

Additionally, if the disaster occurs during working hours, the people who work here will be trapped and will also need to be cared for, and might include nannies, gardeners, restaurant workers and retail employees.

The Rotary Club meets the first three Thursdays of the month at 7:30 a.m. at Aldersgate Lodge, 925 Haverford Ave. Prospective members are welcome to come to breakfast and hear the speaker.

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One Response to Wilson Warns Residents about Natural Disasters

  1. Jack Sanders says:

    John, I have always been amazed how little planning there is to determine what citizens should or must do for foreseeable emergencies. Several years ago the Marquez Knolls Property Owners Association tried to develop a master plan of action
    in case of widespread local emergencies. So far as I know, noting came of it.
    Sorry I was not there to hear your talk on the subject.

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