Officials feared that winds expected to kick up over the weekend would defeat any progress they’d made in controlling California’s deadly wildfires that destroyed at least 5,700 homes and killed at least 40 people over the past week, with most of the victims being elderly. The weather, however, took a turn for the better, and officials finally feel they are getting a hold on the situation.
The Sonoma County sheriff announced on Sunday that the county can now start assessing evacuated areas, while Mendocino County announced they expected they could allow people to return home. Many who were forced to evacuate (estimated to be 100,000 people) are not sure if they have a home to return to, while others worry whether the possessions that are left have been affected by looting.
Many senior living communities were forced to evacuate, and at least one building, belonging to Oakmont Senior Living in Santa Rosa, has been reported to be destroyed. Oakmont reported on Friday that all of their residents from four assisted living and memory care communities are accounted for and safe, and that they are assessing the communities to determine what can be rebuilt/repaired so residents can return home.
Evacuating residents from Oakmont was a collaboration between staff members, neighbors, residents’ families, and authorities. During the evacuation, staff members travelled from door to door, instructing residents to gather in the lobby. Residents were then assisted into cars and buses to be shuttled from the community to Oakmont of Montecito in Concord or to a Belmont Village Senior Living community. Some residents left with family or friends.
Crystal Robinson, Vice President of Sales & Marketing of Oakmont Management Group made a statement on Friday saying that “It[‘s] heartwarming that there are so many people who lent a hand and extended their generosity. We also want to thank the courageous first responders for their selflessness and heroic efforts.”
Having a disaster and evacuation plan in place is essential for keeping staff and residents safe. Disaster Planning, Environmental Safety, and OSHA Compliance: A Toolkit for the Senior Living Community includes guidelines for creating your own disaster preparedness program, including hazard and evacuation assessment tools, a sample policy/procedure for emergency preparedness, and how to prepare for various situations, including hurricanes, tornadoes, and fire safety. Learn more about this resource here.