This is part of a series of Q&As for Mayoral and City Council candidates for the November 2020 election. Questions were submitted by Milpitas residents.
Any ideas for protecting us in the future against wildfires, earthquakes, and other emergencies?
Voltaire Montemayor: I even thought of a bigger picture — state and nation can be scaled down to a city. Prevention and preparation are long topics; however, I always have in mind the need of aerial photos and satellite images. There should be a way to build a preventing structure — to siphon water to a big water container in the forest for fire extinguishing.
Rich Tran: Our City can only have a direct impact on our Valley floor, which is also susceptible to fires due to the extreme weather conditions. We must create a better partnership with PG & E to ensure power lines are not a hazard. We must connect with Milpitas households more to ensure fire alarms are operating properly. Weed abatement is also critical on behalf of residents, our City, and our County. All it takes is a spark to create a disaster.
City Council Candidates
Evelyn Chua: The best protection in any emergencies is preparedness. Our City has a good master plan in dealing with emergencies. I was fortunate to take part in an emergency preparedness training. It’s called Strategic Action For Emergencies (SAFE). Trainees are Milpitas residents and the training is conducted by volunteers and the Milpitas Fire Department. The training is an overview and hands-on-experience on what to do during emergencies. It answers questions on what to prepare, where to go, how to contact loved ones during emergencies. My recommendation is to expand and do an extensive campaign to reach more residents to participate in this training.
Julian Nool Hilario Jr.: Being prepared is the key to a community’s ability to respond to and recover from an incident. When it comes to wildfires, we need to work with our Fire and Public Works Department to focus on areas of the city prone to wildfires and taking action by removing highly flammable vegetation and providing education to our residents in regards to fire prevention and fire emergency preparedness and evacuation. As for other ideas for protection with Emergency Preparedness, it would be great to have Emergency Preparedness resource sheets available in every household besides the website. We should also look into Emergency Preparedness training for the community. Some people learn best by doing and seeing, so to have more programs like CERT to give our residents the hands-on learning experience to deal with emergencies or in communities would help protect our residents.
Robert Marini: The city should establish a phone hotline, for cellar and land line phones. The city should conduct public meetings on what to do in a particular emergency.
Demetress Morris: The first thing our residents need to do is sign up for emergency alerts through http://calalerts.org. Wireless Emergency Alerts get you critical information quickly, including evacuations and major road closures. These alerts are circulated when an approaching threat to life or property happens in your area. This action includes severe man-made or natural disasters such as earthquakes or wildfires. The number one action that needs to take place regarding fires is maintenance of the areas that are highly flammable given the environmental changes occurring daily.
Bob Nuñez: Public Safety includes the Police Department and 911-Dispatchers, Fire Department, the Office of Emergency Services, and the Fire Prevention. The Police Department and the 911-Dispatchers have had Police Officers, staff, and equipment added over the past 4 years to keep up with the growth of Milpitas. The past and current Police Chief have done a tremendous job of educating and informing the City Council and the community about the needs of our City. The Fire Department was in need of 4 fire trucks because of growth and the condition of the fleet. We were also in need of additional fire fighters. I took the lead and ensured that through the budgeting process both the equipment and staff were funded. The whole Council was supportive. The Office of Emergency Services has been placed within the Department of Fire Suppression. OES is staffed by 1 full time person. There are others that have emergency services as part of their responsibilities. In these times of wildfires, floods, and earthquakes, we need to staff our OES at a level that shows we accept that climate change has caused our environment to be significantly different and we need to be prepared to address it. This does not have to cost additional dollars but will be addressed by a reallocation of staff.
Anthony Phan: Probably relevant now more than ever, fire prevention is something that I feel needs to be prioritized much higher in terms of funding and legislation. We should adopt and implement a comprehensive wildfire prevention strategy that places an emphasis on collaboration between the state and local jurisdiction. We should also have strong funding reserves so that we can have the resources to effectively prevent and extinguish wildfires. It is also so crucial to strengthen our forest and rangelands through adequate management of vegetation. An effective wildfire prevention strategy should include prioritization of community outreach efforts to local communities — these efforts should entail educating homeowners and the community educating them on best practices to reduce the risk of fires and the impact once they occur. From a planning and community development perspective, we should continue to incorporate elements of emergency preparedness in our land use planning process, requiring detailed assessment and mitigation plans for hazardous conditions such as proximity to faults or other geological risks and factors related to risk of flooding. In regards to emergency preparedness, the City should continue publicizing and regularly updating information related to emergency and disaster preparedness in multiple languages on different platforms such as Facebook, Nextdoor, AlertSCC, and our MyMilpitas app. We should also coordinate with the County Office of Emergency Services and other agencies to create a multi-jurisdictional Local Hazard Mitigation Plan. Lastly, we should continue to review, maintain and repair City roadways and provide signage to clearly identify emergency access routes.
Suraj Viswanathan: Yes, I have suggested a “rapid-response” team composed of health care providers to ensure we have enough ICU beds, ventilators, masks, and other PPE in the event of another pandemic. I’ve also suggested recruiting more volunteer firefighters as an auxiliary which can help and bolster our Fire Department in crises like the wildfires.
Tiffany Vuong: I would like to restore Indigenous land stewardship in this area, which is home to the Tamyen Ohlone. We tend to think of Milpitas’s history starting with Mexican land grants, erasing Indigenous history and the violence committed against them. In South County and the Santa Cruz area, the Amah Mutsun Tribal Band has been working with private and public property owners to steward the land and engage in their cultural practices where they have been for centuries. I would like to see if we can replicate similar efforts here with the appropriate tribal band. As for earthquakes, we have to ensure that every household in Milpitas knows how to stay safe during the jolts and after. We need to reinvigorate a public educational campaign around emergency safety. We also need to make sure we are reaching our residents in the various languages that they speak, or else communities with limited English proficiency will be unprepared and their lives more at risk when emergencies occur.