UC Berkeley, city officials draft evacuation plans amid Bay Area wildfires

Berkeley Hills
Nicole White/File
One challenge in drafting an evacuation plan has been navigating the narrow streets in the Berkeley Hills and the lack of wider street options, according to Berkeley City Councilmember Susan Wengraf.

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UC Berkeley and city of Berkeley officials are working to draft wildfire evacuation plans in response to the wildfires in the Bay Area.

In an Aug. 19 press release, campus officials detailed information on emergency preparedness steps that have been taken. Since last year, air sensors have been installed, the ventilation system has been upgraded and systemwide air quality index standards for required actions and suggested precautions have been adopted, according to the press release.

Campus spokesperson Janet Gilmore said in an email that although COVID-19 closures and requirements have changed how campus would respond to an emergency, UC Berkeley is continuing to work with stakeholders to prepare campus and the surrounding community.

Gilmore added that UC Berkeley works in partnership with the city of Berkeley, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and Alameda County to protect those at risk, regardless of whether or not they are part of the UC Berkeley campus. She also suggested that individuals register to receive alerts from the campus notification system UCB WarnMe, as well as alerts from the city of Berkeley, so they can be notified in cases of emergencies.

“As officials notify you of an action, whether that is shelter in place, evacuate or avoid the area, please listen and do as instructed,” Gilmore said in the email. “Those guidance steps are there to protect you, the impacted area and the individuals responding to the emergency.”

According to Berkeley City Councilmember Susan Wengraf, the city of Berkeley does not have a formal, written plan for wildfire evacuation but is working on one with neighboring jurisdictions. In the meantime, the plan is simply to evacuate people once they receive an emergency notification, Wengraf said.

Wengraf added that the Berkeley Fire Department’s Office of Emergency Services is working on a plan so people will have shelter that complies with COVID-19 social distancing measures.

One challenge in drafting an evacuation plan has been navigating the narrow streets in the Berkeley Hills and the lack of wider street options, according to Wengraf.

“With cars parked on both sides of the street and lots of people trying to get out, the streets can become very clogged,” Wengraf said. “We’re trying to get people to be more conscious about how they park.”

She added that they are working on getting individuals to park in driveways and garages instead of the street.

Wengraf did not have an official date for the release of the evacuation plan, but she added that when it is released she will send it out to her email list and hold a community town hall.

“I just want everybody to be very alert,” Wengraf said, urging people to sign up for the county alert system. “It is essential for people to be up to date on their emergency notifications.”

Contact Catherine Hsu at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @catherinehsuDC.