Editorial: Take Control After Fires, Thousand Oaks Shooting
Read the full article below or on the VC Star website.
When multiple tragedies befall a community as they have this past week in Ventura County, it’s natural to feel a sense of helplessness.
A gunman senselessly murders 12 people at a bar, a wildfire randomly destroys dozens of homes, and there was seemingly nothing we could have done to prevent it, nothing we can do now to bring back lost lives or property, nothing we can do in the future to break the cycle of violence or Mother Nature.
Wednesday’s mass shooting at the Borderline Bar & Grill in Thousand Oaks, followed by the Woolsey and Hill wildfires that left a path of destruction from our hills to the ocean, may leave us with much despair. It was, after all, only a year ago that the Thomas Fire and Las Vegas massacre profoundly scarred Ventura County.
Our community is hurting right now. Yet as individuals, we are not helpless. We can leave cynicism, fatalism and paralysis behind and take personal responsibility for doing what we can to support the victims while preparing ourselves for emergencies. The hurt cannot be undone, but we can strive to lessen the damage if and when tragedy strikes again.
Lives were saved at the Borderline when people took cover or fled. Many schools, large companies and other institutions practice these techniques in active-shooter training, but how many of us have taken the initiative to do it on our own?
Experts say it’s a natural reaction to freeze when you hear a gunshot, and that makes you vulnerable. Preparing yourself mentally on how to immediately react can save your life, they say, especially considering that most active-shooter incidents are over within 3 minutes.
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security has posted a shooting training video, “Options for Consideration,” that can benefit us all. The video on when to “run, hide or fight” and other important information is available at dhs.gov/active-shooter-preparedness, and we encourage you to study it.
Lives and property also were undoubtedly saved this past week because homeowners were prepared for wildfires. In a county prone to drought, Santa Ana winds and heat waves — weather patterns expected to worsen because of climate change — every resident, and especially those in hillside areas, must be prepared for the worst.
That includes clearing at least 100 feet of brush around structures (required by law), having a cache of emergency supplies (food, water, flashlights, batteries, etc.) in both your home and car, and developing an evacuation plan for all members of your family. A Public Policy Institute of California survey in 2014 found 47 percent of respondents didn’t have a disaster supply kit and 51 percent lacked a disaster plan.
It also means evacuating sooner rather than later. Before the deadly Montecito mudflows that followed the Thomas Fire, many residents refused to leave. Now, those in the Woolsey and Hill burn areas may face similar choices when winter rains arrive.
All the information you need is at readyventuracounty. We urge you to educate yourself and get prepared if you’re not already.
Psychologists say helping victims or survivors also can reduce a sense of helplessness and start a healing process. You can donate blood (blood4life.org), or give money to Ventura County Community Foundation funds earmarked for the Borderline and fire victims (vccf.org). The Rotary Club of Westlake Village also is raising money for the shooting victims (gofundme.com/borderline-shooting-victim039s-fund).
Finally, it can help to just share your feelings with family, friends and neighbors. “Don’t get trapped in isolation,” Shawn Thornton, a pastor at Calvary Community Church in Westlake Village, told The Star. “This feeling is very real, but it won’t always be here.”