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Oakland Firesafe Council

Oakland/Alameda County Launch Zonehaven for Evacuation Guidance

Oakland, CA — Today, representatives from the Oakland Fire Department and Oakland Police Department, along with a countywide taskforce made up of fire, police and emergency management agencies, jointly announced the launch of the “Know your Zone” campaign to help residents and businesses be better prepared for the next evacuation or emergency, through an online platform called Zonehaven™ .

“Part of getting into the zone of emergency preparedness is ‘knowing your zone’ in Oakland,” said Mayor Libby Schaaf. “In case of an major emergency, Oaklanders will need to work together and rely on our public safety tools – and that now includes an online platform to help us all evacuate safely and quickly.”

The Zonehaven™ platform is designed to provide first responders and the public with simple, consistent, and immediate evacuation information. The new platform allows each agency to make decisions on when to evacuate and which zones to evacuate all while monitoring critical evacuation route traffic in real-time. Additionally, the platform is available in real-time for the public to see if their zone is being evacuated.

“Whether it’s a fire, an earthquake, or another type of major emergency, it’s critical that every Oakland resident knows their zone and is ready to easily receive and act on the information and guidance being provided by first responders,” said Fire Chief Reginald Freeman. “Zonehaven is helping build valuable partnerships between our respective public safety agencies while also bridging the information gap between emergency services agencies and our communities.”

In the lead up to today’s “Know Your Zone” launch, representatives from jurisdictions throughout Alameda County in planning meetings for nearly two years. Project coordinators successfully met their goal to roll Zonehaven™ out to all 1.67 million Alameda County residents in time for the 2021 fire season.

“We can never forget the 1991 Oakland Hills fire that took the lives of 25 of our community members, including an Oakland Police Officer and an OFD Battalion Chief, and injured so many others,” said Police Chief LeRonne Armstrong. “With the accuracy of this technology, first responders can chart and provide safe and accurate evacuations routes.”

Starting Today: All Alameda County residents will live in a zone identified by a number. Businesses are located in zones, as well. Residents should record their zone number and review zone details before the next emergency to be better informed and able to quickly map their best path to safety. “Know Your Zone” helps residents clearly understand the areas under evacuation and allows them to follow incident progress for their zone.

“Knowing what to do before, during and after an evacuation is critical to saving lives,” said Sue Piper, Chair of the Oakland Firesafe Council, a  community-based nonprofit focused on wildfire prevention in the fire prone hills of Alameda County. “Knowing your Zone and familiarizing yourself with the many routes to safety before you have to evacuate is essential. Don’t wait for the real thing—practice, practice, practice!”

How Does Zonehaven Work?

The Zonehaven™ platform uses an algorithm incorporating various factors or inputs affecting disasters or emergency events to produce a digital evacuation map or real-time guide based on pre-set community zones.

These factors include weather, traffic flows, street design, historical disaster data, geography, and more. They are used to build a communitywide (city or county or whatever entity is utilizing the program) baseline digital map of evacuation zones.

First responders use the program to guide decision-making around if, when, and where to order evacuations or evacuation warnings. Residents of affected zones are alerted using a variety of means, including the county alert system (AC Alert), Nixle local alerts, social media such as Twitter and Facebook, and old-fashioned door-to-door warnings.

“Know Your Zone” does not replace current systems like AC Alert.

Zonehaven™ works in conjunction with those systems before and during an emergency. First responders will use Zonehaven™ to plan and execute evacuations both large and small. The platform provides access to real-time weather, traffic and fire information and has the ability to model traffic and fire spread scenarios. From Zonehaven™, public safety officials will update the community with zone-specific information on the map, including up-to-date evacuation status, live incident updates, and relevant resources such as shelter options. 

During an emergency, relevant additional data is fed into the map, showing risks over zones, such as the incident location, wind speeds and directions. This is a digital application or software for use on a smartphone, computer or tablet, and interfaces with real-time GPS-guided traffic maps available through applications such as Waze. 

Zonehaven™ is currently deployed in many counties across the Bay Area, and was recently used on the CZU Complex Fire which affected 3 adjacent counties. “We were lucky to have already built zones for San Mateo, Santa Clara, and Santa Cruz Counties – it helped enable the efficient evacuation and repopulation of more than 77,000 residents,” said Charlie Crocker, CEO of Zonehaven™. This initiative and commitment to new technology is being led by the Alameda County Evacuation Task Force and the Alameda County Sheriff’s Office and is supported by all fire and law agencies in the County.


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