Councilmember Susan Wengraf
Newsletter #81

August 16, 2020
Dear Friends and Neighbors,

==The last days have been trying as we deal with extreme heat, red flag warnings, and the threat of rolling black-outs. This newsletter will focus on efforts you can take to keep yourself and your loved ones out of harm's way. Since the pandemic has turned our lives upside down, my focus has been on keeping you all safe and healthy. Now with the added threat of fire season, we must be extra vigilant.

==Given the sense of isolation that we are all experiencing due to COVID-19, I am offering to meet with you and your neighbors via Zoom. If you can pull together a dozen or so neighbors who would like to hear about what the City is doing about the pandemic, or how we balanced our budget, or the plans we have to re-imagine policing in Berkeley, please call my office at 510 981-7160 to schedule a time. This is not a replacement for in person neighborhood meetings, but it is the best we can do, for now.

Please take care,
Red Flag Warning Extended
==The National Weather Service has extended the Red Flag Warning for the Berkeley hills until 11am Monday, August 17.

==The City of Berkeley will be taking the following actions in response:

  • Red flags will be flown at City flag poles for the duration of the warning
  • Fire danger signs at fire stations will be changed to "high" for the duration of the warning
  • BBQ use in City parks in the Berkeley hills is prohibited
  • Community members will be notified via messages on AC Alert, Nixle,, email, social media, and AM 1610

==If you have not received an alert via text or email or mobile phone, please sign up for both AC Alert and Nixle now.

==There were problems with the delivery of the email about the Red Flag Warning that I sent out yesterday, and not everyone received it. I am including the information again here:
     A Red Flag Warning means that critical fire weather conditions are either occurring now, or will shortly. A combination of strong winds, low relative humidity, and warm temperatures can contribute to extreme fire behavior.

   Any fires that develop are likely to spread rapidly.

What Can YOU Do?

  • CALL 911 immediately if you see or smell smoke

  • Sign up for AC Alert for emergency notifications

  • Park your vehicles in driveways or garages, leaving streets clear for emergency vehicles. Fire trucks and ambulances need 14 feet clearance in order to pass safely through our narrow, windy streets, so please take note when you park your vehicle. It is essential that we keep roads clear for first responders!

  • Park your vehicles facing downhill if you are on the street

  • Fire hydrants need 15 feet clearance on each side. If you do not comply with these regulations, you are jeopardizing the safety of everyone in our city.

  • BBQs and other outdoor burning activities that may lead to fire creation are not allowed.

  • Think about your evacuation routes. You should have two options in mind. 

  • Be prepared to leave your home, if evacuation is required. Read more information here.

  • Be prepared for a possible power shutoff.

  • Please check on your neighbors.
Is Your GO-BAG Ready?
==Now is the time to create a go-bag or refresh the one you already have. Here are my suggestions for what to include. These recommendations are based on research and consultation with emergency preparedness experts. That said, feel free to customize these ideas to your own personal needs.

==Put these items in a backpack or duffel bag with a shoulder strap.

==Keep your Go-Bag(s) in an easily accessed location - an entry-hall closet or a garage.

==You could also keep them outside your home in a waterproof box or trash can with a strapped lid.

==Make sure each bag has a tag with your name and address.

==It is also a good idea to have emergency Go-Bags in your vehicle and at work.

==Remember that you may be walking or running with this bag, so do not make it too heavy.
  • Battery-powered small AM/FM radio, extra batteries
  • LED flashlight and headlamp, extra batteries
  • Chargers and power banks for cell phones
  • N95 mask, cotton bandana, goggles, work gloves and hat
  • Change of clothing (cotton preferred)
  • Spare eyeglasses/contact lenses
  • Medications, personal supplies
  • Toiletry and sanitation items
  • Bottle of Water, non-perishable energy bars and snacks
  • First aid kit, whistle, pocket knife,
  • Roll of duct tape, emergency blanket
  • Extra car and house keys, cash (small bills)
  • Paper, pencils, permanent marker
  • Emergency phone list and contacts
  • Copies of important documents; driver’s license for birth certificates, passports, insurance policies, prescriptions
==If you assemble your go-bag this week, you will be one step closer to being prepared to evacuate in the event of a threatening wildfire or other disaster.

==The advice of the Fire Department is: DO NOT WEAR AN N95 MASK WHEN EVACUATING. WEAR A BANDANA.

==You can wear the N95 after you have evacuated when smoke particulates are polluting the air, but wearing an N95 when you are either walking fast or running is not recommended.
Public Safety Power Shut-Offs
==PG&E claims that it may be necessary to turn off your electricity to keep you safe from the risk of wildfire during extreme weather events. This is called a Public Safety Power Shutoff (PSPS). They promise to provide notifications two days in advance, then one day in advance, and right before they turn off your power. You will be notified through calls, texts and emails. I will also try to notify you in a timely way.

==Factors that PG&E considers when they are making their decision:

  • A red flag warning called by the National weather Service
  • Low humidity levels
  • Sustained winds of above 25 mph in the forecast
  • Very dry ground fuel
  • On the ground, real time observations

==You can find out more here.

==When you get notification, use that time to prepare for being without power. Ask yourself these questions:

  • Do I have a supply of batteries for my radio and devices?
  • Do I have medications that need refrigeration?
  • Do I use medical devices that rely on electricity?
  • If power goes out, do I know how to open the garage door manually?
  • Have I charged up all my devices like cell phones and laptops?
  • Do I have any neighbors with a generator or battery supply that I can access?
  • Do I have enough LED lanterns to provide sufficient light? DO NOT USE CANDLES for light.
  • Do I have a battery operated radio to receive news and updates?
Chipper Making 2nd Pass
==It is not too late to take action and weed your yards, clean gutters, and trim up your tree limbs.

==The Debris Bin and Chipper Program will make a second pass starting the week of July 27th. The chipper schedule and instructions are below (pdf available here).

==Please schedule your gardening and landscaping activities so that you can take advantage of this program 
Wear A Mask!
Emergency Notifications
==AC Alert will be Berkeley's primary emergency alerting system for the public. It is one of the tools the City of Berkeley uses to communicate emergency information and instructions to the community. AC Alert can send:
  • Voice alerts to phones
  • SMS text messages
  • Email
  • TTY/TDD messages
   Listed AT&T "land lines" are automatically included to receive voice messages from AC Alert for emergency warnings. Community members must sign up to receive voice or text alerts on cell phones, VoIP phones, unlisted phones, TTY/TDDs or through email.

   If you want to receive emergency alerts and updates, sign up for AC Alert.
  • Need a new refuse can?
  • Have a favorite pothole you want filled?
  • Want to report illegal dumping?

CALL 311
Susan Wengraf
Berkeley City Council District 6
(510) 981-7160