During crisis, community needs better communication

Posted on October 28, 2017 by Sonoma Valley Sun

Now that we have a bit of distance from the immediacy of the fires I would like to raise a concern, or two, that may prove useful in future emergency situations of a widespread nature, directly impacting the Sonoma Valley. If anyone was paying attention to Bay Area news feeds for up-to-date information about the situation here in the Valley, where mostly — except for Glen Ellen, Kenwood and the hill sides east of town – we were on the fringes of the major fires, yet very much impacted, you came to realize that for the most part you were out of luck.

I learned later that KSVY was the place to go for those who wanted to learn what was most relevant and apparently up-to-the-minute, or as close as possible, to our local situation. You might not have known of the vigilance of the broadcasters of our hometown radio station to supply ongoing updates of what we needed to know here.

I hope that our City officials will take some time now, before the next crisis hits, to determine the best place for us to get the news we most need for Sonoma, whether it be via KSVY, or one of the websites of our local papers, or perhaps the city’s website itself or maybe best, all the above, providing the same reliable, immediate news directly linked to information from first-response agencies.

And while on the general subject of information sharing, I also want to reference the meeting organized by State Senator Bill Dodd held October 13 at Prestwood School to an overflow crowd in the gymnasium. Though I applaud the Senator for taking the initiative to organize a meeting for Sonoma, thus addressing in part the concern raised above, in the main I found the event to be very frustrating. During a considerable portion of the meeting local and regional officials and politicians spent valuable meeting time congratulating themselves on how well the various first-responder and government agencies were working together.

Should we not expect this to be happening during public emergencies, if not routinely? It begs the question of why speaker after speaker had to mention this fact. (By the way, this self-congratulatory verbiage also happened repeatedly in many of the public information press meetings coming out of both Napa and Sonoma Counties.) At the Prestwood gathering it got to the point that folks were beginning to leave the meeting before written questions (please!) from the audience were addressed in the waning minutes of the allotted time. What I feel was most needed was a boots-on-the-ground official from Cal Fire (one of whom was present and spoke briefly and relevantly, but primarily before the written Q and A session) to address questions directly from the audience with need-to-know, anxiety-quelling information.

I am grateful for the work of all first responders during these past two weeks, especially our fire-fighters, but I do hope that in the future for Sonoma Valley we can find the most efficient way to get vital information out to the public in a timely and relevant fashion.

 — Tim Boeve, Sonoma

7 thoughts on “During crisis, community needs better communication

  1. Media is so self obsessed and self congratulatory. No wonder so many hold them in contempt. Wait til PD wins Pulitzer. It won’t stop, and this all based on the tragedy of those losing their homes and lives. I personally despise the media.

  2. Thank you Tim for those words. What especially rings true is “During a considerable portion of the meeting local and regional officials and politicians spent valuable meeting time congratulating themselves on how well the various first-responder and government agencies were working together.”. I happened to be evacuated in Rough and Ready during the LOBO fire of the same week. When the town hall meeting was broadcast on their local radio station it was MOST informative, without all of the congratulatory verbage. They shared necessary information to help victims get into action through the string of agencies AND told them what was already being done to help them (an important one I remember to be comforting was property reassessments).

  3. Tim, Thank you for your comments regarding the lack of info. For the first couple of days the lions share of info I got was from media ie; network news and network radio. I also got some news from Nixle but that was very poor. Facebook was helpful as well especially from neighbors and Sam Coturri. The police and sheriffs had the least amount of info and some were nice and just nasty. In fact I witnessed a poor communication from an officer directed at Tim regarding leaving the fire department alone because they did not need to hear from citizens because they were busy fighting fires.. This officer at the corner of Thornsberry and Lovall Valley had a totally helpful fellow officer that was great to deal with. The crowning moment in poor communication came from some woman representing Sonoma Co. Being interviewed by KRON about the fires and when she was asked about Sonoma Valley she knew nothing about Sonoma Valley. Kinda says to me we’re on our own down here.

  4. It does happen, especially with politicians and bureaucrats. They always engage in a self-congratulatory press conference to ‘drown out’ alternative views. While it is good to commend emergency personnel battling fire, storms, flood, etc, I think more time should be given to hear what the people have to say as people’s experiences may help on-going response efforts to an emergency or disaster that hasn’t ended.

  5. I agree with your assessment, Tim. As part of future emergency planning, support should be given to the radio station KSVY and Channel 27 Sonoma television station through donations, grants, and city funding to expand local news coverage. I appreciated their updates during the fires.

  6. Trying to get support for the radio station is a good idea .But the station is a long way from being a serious news organization . It is a collection of almost all volunteers who are usually very inexperienced .Having said that , it is all we have . And having an actual radio signal available at a time such as this fire should be worth an awful lot . Trouble is when you tune to the station throughout the day , you often hear some inane programming .I.E. , fortune telling and other babble and blab . But you take the good with the bad .

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