Mayor Michael Brownrigg said, “Your city team has been working very hard.” He noted that more rain fell in the last five days of 2022 in a shorter amount of time than at any other time since Lincoln was president. The city usually processes 3 million gallons of water per day at its sewage treatment plant, but on December 31, he added, “We processed 23 million gallons.” The city went through a year’s supply of sand – 20 tons – in a week at its sandbag station.
Police Chief Mike Matteucci pointed out that Burlingame Police dispatchers handle most of the calls coming in to the city during emergency periods. In addition to managing calls about flooding and power outages, there are many calls about trees, traffic issues and burglar alarms affected by the outages. He said the department also managed to find safe shelter for about six individuals reported to be struggling during the storms. He urged people to call police whenever they spot any suspicious activity, not just storm damage. He said all alarm systems should have battery backup. If yours fails to work, you should call your alarm company.
Matteucci recommended preparing for emergencies by getting sandbags, charging your phone, getting a portable charger and extra batteries, and making sure you have adequate food and water. He also suggested checking on your neighbors to make sure they are safe.
Assistant Fire Chief Ken Giacotto said the Central County Fire Department (CCFD), which serves Burlingame, Hillsborough and Millbrae, makes sure its two utility vehicles are well stocked with pumps and other equipment so they can respond to residents experiencing flooding and power outages. His goal is to acquire a third utility vehicle. Dispatchers prioritize medical emergencies first.
Giacotto said CCFD realizes it needs “more of a collaborative relationship with the people we serve,” and recommended that residents take free Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) training so they can help their families and assist others during emergencies. The next class begins March 12. You can sign up here:
Central County Fire CERT Training
The mayor introduced Parks Superintendent and City Arborist Richard Holtz as the “star of the show” because most questions at the event concerned trees. Holtz said the Parks & Recreation Department works closely with Public Works to clear storm drains and, when possible, fallen trees. It also lines up contractors in advance to respond to issues.
On March 14, the department received 109 calls in three hours. All calls are prioritized by (1) life and safety, (2) protecting property and (3) access issues. If someone has to wait for city help, Holtz said, it’s likely because personnel are dealing with a more serious problem. In addition, he noted, workers need to wait until PG&E de-energizes fallen power lines before they can clear them. He asked those present to remind people who want to take selfies with fallen trees to not cross caution tape lines.
Holtz said each of the 17,000 city trees in Burlingame is inspected every four years and pruned if needed. While it’s natural for trees to sway in the wind, they should not be rocking back and forth. Gaps and cracks opening up in the soil around the tree are indicators that the tree may fall.
Councilmember Ricardo Ortiz praised the city employees, saying, “Think about all the crazy storms we’ve had. It’s just a miracle we didn’t have more damage or injuries.”
BNN Vice Chair David Harris quoted from NPR articles noting that people who know one another have a better chance of survival during disasters and their chances of recovery are better, too. He invited residents to contact BNN at [email protected] for help in organizing their neighbors. Simple steps include organizing a coffee to bring people together and suggesting they compile a roster of people’s contact information and skills that might prove helpful during emergencies.
Rik Kasuga of BNN”s Board of Directors demonstrated how an app called Zello turns your phone into a walkie-talkie and can connect you with family members and others almost anywhere in the world. He said first responders have used Zello following disasters and urged people to join BNN Zello net bimonthly check-ins.
For more information about BNN, visit https://burlingamenetwork.org