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Emergency preparedness event, alert system test set for Sonoma County

With the onset of peak fire season, Sonoma County officials, state lawmakers and first responders are ratcheting up efforts to help the public prepare for emergencies.

Sonoma Ready Day will offer preparedness resources, demonstrations, advice for residents and ranchers, along with 2,400 free emergency kits available on a first-come, first-served basis starting at 10 a.m. Sunday at the Sonoma County Fairgrounds. The event runs until 3 p.m.

A $100,000 donation from the Tribal Council of the Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria paid for the kits, designed to provide two people with essential emergency supplies for three days.

'Our tribe is committed to helping keep the community safe,' tribal chairman Greg Sarris said in a statement.

Supervisor Shirlee Zane said she has long dreamed about staging the event. 'Everyone plays a role in disaster preparedness,' she said. 'We are all in this together.'

On Thursday, Sonoma County's Department of Emergency Management will test three alert and warning systems, initiating a telephone call or mobile device alert to residents and visitors within the communities of Healdsburg, Cloverdale and Geyserville from 10 a.m. until 11:10 a.m.

The tests will involve SoCoAlert, an emergency notification that contacts residences and businesses by telephone, mobile phone, text message, email and social media within specific areas, and the Wireless Emergency Alert system, which is similar to an Amber Alert using a special tone and vibration on mobile devices and sending a brief text regarding an immediate threat to life and property.

In addition, the National Weather Service NOAA radio system, a nationwide network of radio stations that broadcasts weather warnings and forecasts 24 hours a day, will test the first nonweather-related alert in California.

'These are the systems we will use in a real emergency to provide our residents and visitors with critical information and instructions to help keep us safe,' Supervisor James Gore said.

At Sunday's event, Zane and Gore will be joined by Santa Rosa Mayor Tom Schwedhelm, state Sen. Bill Dodd, D-Napa, and Assemblyman Marc Levine, D-San Rafael, in a public welcome at 10:30 a.m. in Finley Hall.

Emergency preparation tips will be given by Paul Lowenthal, Santa Rosa assistant fire marshal, Sonoma County Sheriff's Lt. Adrian Mancilla and others at 11 a.m.

Wendy Wheelwright, a Sonoma County Behavioral Health patient care analyst, will discuss coping with the emotional impacts of an emergency at 12:30 p.m. and Caerleon Safford, a Permit Sonoma fire inspector, will discuss strategies for protecting homes against wildfire at 1:30 p.m.

Sign language and Spanish translations will be provided at all sessions.

Games and activities for children, free snacks and water refills will be available, along with emergency vehicles on display and commercial food trucks.

Parking and admission to the event are free.

For information, go to SonomaReadyDay.org.

You can reach Staff Writer Guy Kovner at 707-521-5457 or guy.kovner@pressdemocrat.com.

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