Alan Ferdman | Public Safety Must Be Job No. 1

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Now more than ever, personal and public safety is on everyone’s mind. Plus, who can blame any of us for being concerned? We had become accustomed to thinking it is our elected officials’ responsibility to provide for our safety. Yet today, as we watch riots going on unchecked in American cities, with the West Coast fire season erupting with a vengeance, and as we experience a shortage of electrical power during the worst heat wave of the century, it is no wonder people are increasingly concerned. 

The public has started to realize public safety is more than just having a good police and fire department. It relies on all our government agencies to “faithfully discharge their duties,” as well as for each of us to proactively plan, and take mitigating precautions prior to a problem situation raising its ugly head. It is a smart move for individuals, to stockpile what their family might need to make it on their own. 

You might recall last year’s Santa Clarita power outages when generators were flying off the shelves of every local supplier. I wonder how many of them are still operational and will be used this time around. Currently, we are witnessing lines form outside of gun stores, with firearms being purchased in record number, caused by residents feeling the need to possess a means of self-protection. Such purchases are reactive, and they provide a true indication of how uncomfortable the general public is with how issues related to safety are being managed. So, I ask you to consider, how do you feel about the situation, and what are you doing to raise your comfort level? 

Right now, in Santa Clarita, the “hot button” issues (pardon the pun) are “fire season, power outages and heat.” So, what are the people in charge doing? Today, I watched Gov. Gavin Newsom chastise the utility companies for not being able to keep the power on. I agree, the power companies share most of the blame, but the restrictions placed on the utilities by the state of California are causing part of the problem also. Why hasn’t the Public Utilities Commission been watching the store in order to guarantee there will be enough power? Didn’t they approve the rates?

You and I might be able to withstand a period without electricity, but we must consider and protect those seniors, and frail individuals, who will not survive the heat, along with those experiencing medical conditions where power outages eliminate their medical lifeline. Yet, even for those who are healthy enough for a power outage to be considered just an inconvenience, our lifestyle will change. When the power goes down, there will be no house lights, air conditioning, streetlights, or traffic lights. 

Service stations will not be able to pump gas, stores will close with food spoiling on the shelves, the internet will be unavailable, land lines (particularly if you are using voice over IP) will become unavailable, cell sites will be useless, and water will no longer flow to our homes when the water company runs out of generator power. In short, modern civilization is dependent on a reliable, and abundant amount of electric power. 

To compound the problems we face, the summer fire season has arrived. City Manager Ken Striplin tells us to “practice fire prevention by keeping matches and lighters away from children, not to throw your cigarettes out of a car window, and for you to provide brush clearance around your home,” all of which are excellent suggestions. At the same time, Mr. Striplin recognizes our “thousands of miles of natural preserved open space that surrounds our city. Unfortunately, …. makes the valley prone to wildfires, which are a natural part of our region.” Therefore, since the city owns the open space, and fire season comes every summer, what has our city government done to protect city residents from the fire danger? Are they clearing fire breaks at the edge of open space, and in critical locations? Have they made water available in and around open space for firefighters to use? Have they put pressure on Caltrans to clear all the brush along the Metrolink right of way? 

Plus, what about those county egresses, which run all through the city and back up to existing homes — are they being maintained brush-free? So, when Mr. Striplin closed by saying, “By ensuring that we as individuals and families are doing our part to prevent and prepare for wildfires,” he is absolutely on target.

It is up to us, not only by taking immediate proactive actions, but by also letting the city of Santa Clarita, Los Angeles County and the state of California know we expect the same from them. They need to hear a clear, loud and consistent message; the power must stay on, and the responsible agencies must do all they can to protect our homes and families from wildfires. Why? Because it is our elected officials’ responsibility to provide for public safety, noting each of them took an oath before assuming office, to “faithfully discharge their duties.”

Perhaps we just need to remind them again, “Public Safety Must be Job One.”

Alan Ferdman is a Santa Clarita resident and a member of the Canyon Country Advisory Committee board.

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