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Santa Barbara is coastal, mountainous, semiarid, and situated close to fault lines. As such, the region has a long history of natural disasters, including storms, wildfire, and earthquakes.

Worsened by drought and high winds, wildfire is our most common natural disaster. In the past two years alone, wildfires have burned hundreds of thousands of acres countywide, costing hundreds of millions of dollars in damages and firefighting costs.

After those fires burn away the grasses, chaparral, and trees, then come the debris flows, triggered by ocean-born rainstorms that intensify as they collide with steep mountainsides. On January 20, 2017, for example, in the burn scar of the Sherpa Fire, a heavy downpour swept trees, boulders, and vehicles down El Capitan Creek and out to sea. Luckily, nobody was hurt. But the El Capitan Canyon resort shut down for months during extensive cleanup and repair. And who could forget January 9, 2018? In the smoldering wake of the Thomas Fire ​— ​then the largest wildfire in the history of state recordkeeping ​— ​a historic storm triggered the deadly 1/9 Debris Flow. And just last month, on February 2, a storm swept over the Whittier Fire burn scar near Lake Cachuma, producing a debris flow that clogged a culvert; the diverted runoff shut down Highway 154 in both directions for several weeks.

As far as earthquakes go, Santa Barbara hasn’t had a so-called Big One in nearly 100 years.

All of this isn’t to strike fear into the hearts of Santa Barbarans. It’s only to remind us that we all should prepare ourselves for the inevitable next natural disaster. Don’t think it can’t happen here. It has. It does. It will again. Fortunately, we are a community full of helpful individuals and public, private, and nonprofit leaders dedicated to making disaster preparedness straightforward and affordable. This guide aims to gather many of those resources into a handy booklet that’s easy to understand.

[ Click here to download a PDF version of the complete guide. ]


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