Eichler Tract Gets Prepared - Page 2

Smart start for community safety—as good neighbor hosts 'disaster specialist' meetup
Fridays on the Homefront
Disaster #1: Fire edges close to the Eichlers of Granada Hills, October 10, 2019.
Photo: Adriene Biondo
Fridays on the Homefront
Disaster #2: A scene during the Northridge earthquake of 1994. Photo: Douglas C. Pizac, AP Images

"What impressed me was how many people came," she said of the 26 residents at the informational meeting, which included a few children. "We didn't have any original owners, just a couple people who had been here for a while."

That contingent included Huntley, who already took steps years ago to fortify his Eichler against quake damage.

"The houses were built in '63, so the [building] codes weren't the way they are now," said the lifelong resident of Los Angeles, noting that structural beams now require more secure attachment. "We went and fixed that kind of thing."

"Eichlers are unique, with all the glass," Buck said of common neighborhood concerns at the orientation meeting led by city outreach specialist Crisanta Gonzalez, who noted the neighborhood's mutual familiarity.

"That always helps when you have a group like that. Some neighborhoods barely know each other," commented Gonzalez, who has led scores of similar meetings over the two years since RYLAN was created, adding, "Each one is very different."

"It wasn't real intensive with actual tips," Buck said of Gonzalez's presentation. "It was mostly just showing what their programs are, to see if we want to go on with the planning meeting."

Gonzalez brought a six-square-foot photo of the neighborhood enlarged from Google Earth, which prompted some residents to immediately begin dividing the tract into smaller groups.

"They had gone up to that with a Sharpie…They were into it!" she recalls. "We will probably need seven or eight block captains to host [future planning] meetings with their immediate neighbors to cover the whole tract."

Although RYLAN only deals with Los Angeles County, other California communities have similar neighborhood preparedness programs, and there are also regional groups that provide organizing resources such as the Bay Area Earthquake Alliance.

"It seems like we've got a few people who will take it forward, but we're going to wait until after the holidays," said Buck, noting that RYLAN block captains also have to track which residents have special needs or skills relevant to an emergency.

"Seems like I'm the only guy with a chainsaw," laughed Huntley, adding, "I think that the main takeaway from the thing is, not everybody's got to know stuff, but that [reassurance will come knowing that key] people in your area will know it."

"We had sort of a practice run with the recent Saddleridge fire that came very close to us," Buck said of the October 10 blaze that started near Sylmar and jumped Interstate 5 as it approached Granada Hills. "I feel confident that we will come together again in the event of a more serious disaster. And I hope this RYLAN program will take it a step further and help us be organized and ready."