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Prepared for the worst

Napa experienced its nastiest flood back in 1986, which destroyed over 250 homes and evacuating thousands more. Again on New Year's Eve in 2005, the Napa River's deluge left the community waterlogged and the Russian River crested, filling the streets while Marin County drains dumped untreated sewage into Richardson Bay. North Bay leaders agree that there needs to be more planning to control flood waters and protect the surrounding environment.

On Tuesday, Dec. 8, Sonoma County opens up the floodgates of discussion during the Russian River Disaster Preparedness Forum. Members of Sonoma County Emergency Services and a dozen more panelists from West County disaster service committees will discuss their role in disaster response, provisions for better coordination and how they can improve service to the public in emergency situations.

"There is always a concern for the Russian River," says Jim Leddy, Sonoma County Community and Government Affairs manager. "Historically, there are always those years when we have a very wet year and El NiƱo comes through. We live in a floodplain, so the best way for folks to be prepared for that is to figure out what we can do as a community to respond."

Though "disaster preparedness" extends to all forms of natural disasters, the forum will be primarily focused on floods, a motive that extends from Supervisor Efren Carrillo's work with the Russian River Watershed and the overall concern for generating further discussion on the state of the waterways.

"This forum is mostly to provide both the public and the agencies that handle disasters ways to identity gaps and potential use for resources. We are trying to figure out if we have the capacity to respond in a way that will help people if we have a major flood," Leddy says.

This means that preparedness is essential. Sonoma County emergency services wants to ensure that ample food, medicine and fuel are stockpiled for potential disasters. During the forum, County Fire Chief Mark Aston, head of the Department of Emergency Services for Sonoma County, will discuss these plans to improve response capabilities within emergency services, followed by an open public question and answer session with Supervisor Carrillo.

The Russian River Disaster Preparedness Forum welcomes the public to join them for discussion on Tuesday, Dec. 8, from 6pm at the Guerneville Veterans Memorial Hall. First and Church Streets, Guerneville. For more information, call 707.565.2190.

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