Eichler Tract Gets Prepared

Smart start for community safety—as good neighbor hosts 'disaster specialist' meetup
Fridays on the Homefront
Stirred by last summer's swarm of earthquakes centered in Ridgecrest and the recent fires that came close to her home in Granada Hills, Eichler owner Jennifer Buck decided to reach out to RYLAN and the Los Angeles Department of Emergency Management for their free educational emergency preparedness program. In Eichler neighborhoods, it may be better to operate as a hive than individually, Buck reasoned. Above: Buck hosts a recent emergency preparedness presentation in her Eichler. What professional help is at your fingertips? Photo: Adriene Biondo
Fridays on the Homefront
At the Buck Eichler home October 19, during Crisanta Gonzalez's presentation. Photo: Adriene Biondo
Fridays on the Homefront
Balboa Highlands Eichler owner Jennifer Buck. Photo: courtesy Jennifer Buck

Every state in the Union has earthquakes, every state has brush fires—but excuse Californians if it feels like we went back to the disaster table for a second helping in recent years.

As a lifelong Californian, Jennifer Buck has known for some time that it would be a good idea to make disaster preparedness a communal issue in her Eichler neighborhood.

"Growing up in California, it's always been in the back of my mind. I'm busy, so I just never got around to it," Buck admitted recently. "After that [Ridgecrest] earthquake happened, I thought, ‘Well, I'd better do it quick.'"

Although the Bucks didn't actually feel last July's series of quakes 130 miles northeast of their Balboa Highlands home in Granada Hills, they shook Jennifer out of her community complacency enough to host an informational meeting October 19 in the RYLAN (Ready Your LA Neighborhood) program.

"Nobody [in Balboa Highlands] had any damage from that," she said of the impact by what has been termed the "Ridgecrest sequence" in the 100-plus-home tract. Built from 1962 to ‘64, it is the only Eichler neighborhood in Los Angeles County and one that was recognized in 2010 as an Historic Preservation Overlay Zone.

A four-year resident with husband Jarred and two children, Buck has heard neighbors talk of extensive damage to some Balboa Highlands' Eichlers from the 1994 Northridge earthquake. Referencing a swimming pool tsunami that took out windows in one, she remarked, "That was the most spectacular thing that happened."

Stirred by last summer's swarm of shakers just north of the Mojave Desert, she spied a Next Door post about RYLAN and reached out to the Los Angeles Department of Emergency Management. Learning that participants in the free program are required to share contact information and other details, Buck said, "I thought people [my neighbors] might be hesitant to share their details…but they told me it would be just an informational meeting, so I figured people can commit if they want to."

The Balboa Highlands residents had a head start that many neighborhoods don't in that they have had prior block parties and share a Facebook group.

"We have a pretty special neighborhood," Buck admits. "We have 98 members in our Facebook group, but not everyone is on Facebook, so I had flyers printed with my email address, and my son and I went door to door and slipped them under front doors into atriums…From there, we communicated by email to pick a date."

Bill Huntley has lived on Buck's street since 2001, and he attended the recent meeting to learn about RYLAN and "just to get an idea of what the people around here wanted to do."

"They determined that we were too big a group to do one planning meeting, so they recommended a quick orientation meeting so that people could decide if they wanted to do the more in-depth planning meeting later," Buck said of the city's initial response to her outreach. "The reason the groups have to be small is because during the planning meetings, residents will be given different responsibilities, and they must go door to door or carry out their designated jobs in the first hour after the emergency."

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