In the Woolsey wildfire alone, 482 structures were burned, three firefighters were injured and three civilians were killed, according to recent data. The wildfires all over California demonstrated the importance of having an evacuation plan ready.
An emergency preparedness fair was held on USC's Upper Park Campus on Wednesday, an annual event to educate students, staff and faculty about what to do during disasters on campus and in their own homes.
Attendees were taught how to use a fire extinguisher and got to test their newfound skills by putting out contained flames. This event was especially timely given the devastation caused by disastrous wildfires burning throughout California.
The best way to prepare for a crisis is through a certified training program, like the ones that USC's Campus Emergency Response Team (CERT) provides, said Alex Perez, a volunteer for CERT at Keck's School of Medicine.
CERT's programs train participants to be self-sufficient during emergencies. They teach light fire suppression, search and rescue, basic first aid, and how to get people out from under heavy objects by using pieces of wood.
"Whenever there's a disaster like the fires, people start thinking and get into the mode of training and preparedness" Perez said about the importance of being prepared for a disaster. "Really, preparedness is a mindset and going through a program like this refreshes your mind to think about things that could happen."
A common misconception is that during an emergency, you will be able to pick up the phone, dial 911 and get an immediate emergency response team, Perez said. "During a disaster that isn't always going to happen. Your phone probably won't work and emergency responders are going to be spread very thin."
Perez explains that in these cases, those who are trained in emergency preparedness have an advantage as they can be self-sufficient.
"The misconception is that you can't do much, but if you are trained, you can do a heck of a lot," he said.
Steve Goldfarb, an emergency manager at USC, said that having a plan during a time of crisis is key. "For earthquakes, for example, you should have your own personal supplies on hand and a communication plan with your family to tell them you're okay."
Leticia Rodriguez, a representative from SOS Survival Products encouraged everyone to have an emergency supply bag ready. At the least, people should have enough food and water for three days, said Rodriguez.
She advised that other items of importance are a flashlight, radio, first aid kit with bandages, gauze packs, and aspirin, as well as backup batteries for your radio, and external batteries for your phone.
"One of the big lessons from these wildfires is listening to the first responders and listening to the local media about evacuation," Goldfarb said. "If you find yourself in a situation where you're being told to evacuate, take it very seriously."
Goldfarb clarified that if neighborhoods surrounding USC were evacuated during a disaster, students who live in the immediate area of the university can come to campus for aid."If you are a USC student and you're not staying in our residential buildings, you can come to campus we're going to help you and take care of you."
An emergency preparedness resource guide can be found at https://safety.usc.edu/emergency-preparedness/.