City and county officials are hoping all the residents of the roughly 970 homes in the Riviera neighborhood will be leaving their homes Saturday.

The reason?

An emergency evacuation drill designed to improve the way the city and surrounding agencies will react to a fire in the area, according to Nina Johnson, assistant to the city administrator. As residents begin to pour down the hill to one of six traffic collection sites, search and rescue teams, fire trucks and police will be headed up to ensure the safety of the residents.

All information gathered will be almost simultaneously sent back down to an information center, where officials will be analyzing the flow of the information, as well as the content. Slow spots in traffic patterns, as well as the efficiency of the information coming in will all be analyzed using up-to-the minute photos and data.

In addition to city emergency service staff, 17 regional agencies will be participating in the evacuation Saturday. With that many agencies involved in securing the safety of potentially thousands of people, making sure everyone is on the same page is most important. “It doesn’t matter what type of disaster, what type of incident, communication is always what breaks down,” said city emergency services manager Yolanda McGlinchey said.

Beginning at 9 a.m., residents in the area will be receiving “reverse 9-1-1” calls where they will be told to evaluate. If that doesn’t do the trick, a search and rescue team will be using bull horns and a public address system, and residents should notice helicopters flying overhead and fire trucks cruising past their homes. Residents are allowed to return home after checking in at one of the collection sites.

The drill portion of the day is expected to last between an hour and an hour and a half, while information will be analyzed all afternoon. That will be followed by a “hotwash” debriefing where agency representatives will discuss what went right, what went wrong, and what could be improved.

City officials have been planning the event for about six months, according to city fire Battalion Chief John Ahlman. All residents in the area received multiple letters from the city and county, and are being encouraged to participate.

The event is designed to be a learning experience for everyone, from the emergency personnel to the residents.

“We’ll learn something from it for sure,” Ahlman said. “If not, we’ve probably taken a wrong turn.”

The city doesn’t have the resources to meet every single need, McGlinchey said, which is why residents can prepare now to help ensure their participation. Being proactive and planning ahead, discussing safe routes and having a disaster kit in the household are all encouraged by officials to help families prepare for the worst.


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