DOWNEY – Mayor Fernando Vasquez and Councilman Rick Rodriguez met with Downey Fire Department last week in the wake of the violent Lucifer Storm that struck Southern California on Feb. 17.
While many citizens braved the severe storm as it passed through Downey, DFD was hard at work – and that may be an understatement.
Battalion Chief Michael Whitney described it as “call wise, the busiest day in the history of the department.” Members of dispatch described it as “controlled chaos.”
The Lucifer storm caused flooding throughout the region, and Downey did not go untouched.
A city wide warning was issued for residents to avoid driving as much as possible during the storm’s duration. The storm itself caused property damage and knocked over 70 trees, according to Mayor Vasquez.
With Lucifer in hindsight, Vasquez and Rodriguez joined Fire Chief Mark Gillaspie and fire staff to brainstorm ideas on how to be prepared come the next big storm.
One of the challenges DFD faced while taking on Lucifer head-on was the distribution of their resources.
According to Whitney, one of DFD’s engines got tied up “babysitting” downed powerlines for ten hours. Firefighters also expended resources chasing teenagers that took a raft into the Los Angeles River.
“We couldn’t keep up,” he said.
One solution that was discussed was the activation and utilization of Downey’s Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) to free up DFD in order to respond to more critical emergencies.
“It’s predictable. Every time you get any kind of rain event, let alone what happened Friday – that was extreme – you’re going to get power lines down,” said Whitney. “We have so many people who want to do this, we just need to coordinate them.”
“They could relieve the crews out there, and make them available for another call,” said Chief Gillaspie. “That’s stuff that we’re talking about now – for the first time really utilizing them locally on these types of incidents.”
Mayor Vasquez stressed, however, that residents should still take some matters into their own hands.
“The expectation of the public is that the government will be with you in an emergency right away,” said Rodriguez. “Realistically, a household needs to be prepared for 72 hours on their own without aid.”