Emergency Prep for Fairfax

 

I have put together a specific-to-Fairfax guide to preparing for emergencies, divided roughly into fire, flood, and slides. Earthquakes can cause fire and slides to occur, and along with strengthening your house and water heater, preparation is similar.

Some of my friends lost their homes in the Oakland Fire of ‘91. A little later a Fire Captain told me that the trail next to my house could save lives in a wildfire. He said hundreds of people in the Oakland Fires survived because they could walk downhill from their homes on the trails, when the roads got impassable. I started organizing to clear Fairfax’s network of 130 trails right then, and I’ve never stopped.

We had a huge flood in 2005. I coordinated over 350 volunteers after that flood. The enthusiasm of Fairfaxians to help each other when there's need is amazing. People really understood how vulnerable we are. We helped out the downtown businesses that hadn’t installed flood gates, and then went on to dig mud out of people's houses.

Fires, slides, and floods are a real danger here. Knowing your neighbors is the best insurance you have in an emergency. Celebrating the great community we have, and helping make it better, safer and more prepared, knits us together in a way nothing else can.

Please use this guide to prepare now for potential events, and share it with your friends and neighbors.

Thanks!

Your Mayor, John Reed

P.S. At the bottom of this post, there are links to the most current fire maps, and more.

 

Emergency Prep in Fairfax

 

  • Build a survival kit including food, water, clothes, blankets, first aid, and medication.
  • Fairfax’s siren sounding means ALERT! Be ready to evacuate if needed. Immediately tune your radio to: KCBS 740 AM, KGO 810 AM, WPKX 1610 AM, or Public Television to listen for instructions.
  • Make a family evacuation plan and practice it—plan for your pets, too. Here is Fairfax's Evacuation Planning Guide: http://www.fairfaxpd.org/html/evacuation_planning.html
  • Sign up for emergency notifications at https://www.marinsheriff.org/services/emergency-services/alert-marin to get calls, text, email notification of emergencies.

 

Fire

  • Defensible space around your home AND on the street is crucial for fire fighters—trees over streets form fire tunnels, and Fire Engines can't park under them.
  • Fairfax law requires that vehicles leave “12 feet” of clearance when parking on roadways, for Fire Engines and Paramedics.
  • Check firesafemarin.org for info on defensible space & protecting your home.
  • Know where the neighborhood trails are, in case you can’t leave by car. If you have to abandon your car, don't block the road.

 

Floods

  • Install removable flood gates on vulnerable doors, windows or furnace vents—free plans are available at Town Hall.
  • Install vents to let flood water flow through the crawl space under your home to keep foundations from being undermined.
  • Never drive into water; move vehicles to higher ground before they are inundated. A foot of moving water can knock you down.
  • Sand and bags are available at the Pavilion parking lot; use to divert flows.
  • In the hills: Keep water flowing in appropriate places; keep debris out of culverts.

 

Landslides

  • Watch for potential landslides; new bulges or cracks across a slope, sudden new springs, or if water flow suddenly decreases. The sound of cracking trees or knocking rocks means pay attention!
  • During a slide: Slides move fast—get out of their path! Warn your affected neighbors. Help those in need.
  • If a slide hits while you’re inside, move high up on the opposite side of the building, take shelter under a strong table.
  • Never dig at the toe of a slide. Stay clear—slides can move again days later. 
  • Beware of broken gas pipes, electrical wires.

 

More Current Information

 

  • The two most up to date, reliable fire maps I have found are at:

 

Supported by Marin Professional Firefighters and the Ross Valley Firefighters Association

John Reed for Fairfax Town Council 2017 - FPPC ID 1398783   more info at:  www.fairfaxian.com

 

The Fascinating Pothole Story

Why are there so many potholes in Fairfax?

 

First it's important to recognize how roads deteriorate. Right after paving, there is a tarry surface that keeps water out of the asphalt (a mixture of tar, sand, and gravel). After a couple of years, little cracks form, and water sits in those cracks.

 

This is important to know, because there are organisms that live in water, that like to eat oil products, in this case tar. With some of the tar in the cracks now eaten, the sand loosens up, gets washed out of the cracks, and they get bigger. More water fills the cracks, and they grow faster. You've probably seen extra tar poured into the cracks on roads, and this is why – to keep the water out.

 

After about the 5 year point, these cracks will be covering the surface, so that the road soon looks like it's made of a bunch of blocks, like an alligator's skin. Each of these blocks is getting smaller, because they are getting eaten away, with the cracks getting bigger. Cars and trucks driving on this often move these blocks a little, making cracks below them. As soon as one comes loose, you have a hole, and guess what? It fills with lots of water, and oil–loving bacteria. Soon the gravel comes loose, too, and you have the classic potholes, that seem to appear overnight.

 

At the 10 year point, often a heavily used road will have lots of holes, and cracks that are ready to become holes very soon. The only way to fix it if it gets bad enough is to grind it all out, and rebuild it from scratch. Very expensive.

 

Now here is a really important fact: if you re-seal the road at the 5 year point, you can re-set the clock to almost zero. This is called slurry-sealing, and it costs only about 5% of what rebuilding the road costs. You can do this every 5 years and get your roads to last 30 years plus, without potholes. If you don't, they might last only 10.

 

So back to the local part of the story:

 

In the 1980s and 90s, the Town Council lived within their means by deferring road maintenance. Not much sealing of the roads, just occasionally filling in the bigger holes. By 2000, this had become a big problem, so Fairfax voted in Measure K, a bond measure legally restricted only to fixing roads. By then, the roads were pretty bad, and the Town rebuilt the worst of them, but certainly not all of the worst ones. Roads that were in better shape got left behind, too. By 2008, all of the Bond money (separated into three bonds) was used up.

 

The bigger problem is this: Roads left unmaintained deteriorate faster than the debt in the bonds - we will be paying these bonds off over 20 years.

 

When I was elected to the Council in 2009, I started working on the problem, and oversaw a couple of refinances of the bonds, using the lower interest rates then available to pull more money out for the same payments. This has gone into road maintenance, often in the form of slurry-sealing.

 

I have been working with Barbara Coler especially to develop income streams to keep ahead of our road maintenance. This has been from a number of sources, like Measure C, gas taxes, and the like. We have also worked to identify & prioritize the roads which a) are salvageable and are candidates for protective slurry seals; and b) are hazardous and must be fixed promptly for public safety. This process of evaluation takes a little time but is worth it.

 

Our roads are now all graded on a scale of 1 to 100. 1 being basically gravel, and 100 is new. The 5 year point referred to above is about 75, and slurry sealing then gets us back to about 98. At ten years old, unmaintained roads can be getting down into the 50 range, and once you are below 45 or so, you are paying for a whole new road, as it needs to be ground out and rebuilt.

 

Remember, slurry sealing costs only 5% of a new road. Do it in time and you get 5 more years. Then do it again. And again, for 30 more. Approached this way, you get a road that lasts 30 years for 30% of the cost of rebuilding once.

 

We are not at the point where we can just slurry-seal everything yet, as we are still playing catch-up from the neglect of past years. But I think that this is the right philosophy.

 

Kind of like brushing your teeth now, to avoid a root canal later. Which would you choose?

 

 

Street Re-Paving Update

Beginning in October, roadwork is going to be performed in Fairfax, on a number of our streets.

Finally, after several years of PG&E and the Sewer District tearing up the streets around town, several of them have been completed. This allows us to get going on the repaving that has been in the works now for over three years. Since all the paving companies have lots of work (booming economy and all), we are in luck that our lowest bidder finished the job just before ours early. This means we will be able to get the paving company to do extra sections of road that need it at the same time, saving significant mobilization costs.

Please be aware that if you live on one of the streets being worked on, it will be inconvenient for 4 or 5 days, as road paving equipment will be there, and if you live right where the work is being done, you will not always be able to drive your car right up to your house. Please think about a spot to park nearby, but not on the street where it is being paved. Notices will be sent out to the affected homes, detailing when and where , as well as signs posted in the area, etc. The crews will be putting in long days to make sure it goes as quickly as possible, and I'm sure when it's done we will all be glad!

Parts of Scenic Road, Tamalpais, Mountain View, and Madrone are among the streets that are due to be repaved in this next month of October. Barbara Coler and I have both been allied in pressing for getting ahead of the curve on our road maintenance, as it is so important, and much cheaper to do now instead of later. As roads deteriorate, the cost to fix them goes up exponentially. We are pleased to have the support from the rest of the Council in acting proactively in this way.

The Council, with much encouragement from me, John, recently decided to spend an additional $500K on preserving our roads and sidewalks in the next year, for a total of around $1 M.  This is because the interest on a loan offered by the County was very reasonable, and by spending the extra $500K now, we will save between $3M to $3.5M over the next 5 years. This is an incredible return on investment, and we will be glad we did. 

Roads deteriorate fast unless you maintain them by slurry-sealing them at the correct time. Kind of like fixing the roof on your house before it leaks and does phenomenal damage. Or getting your teeth cleaned vs. a later root canal. 

I will be posting in more detail soon, about this and many other subjects. The posts are designed to cross-post to the “John Reed for Fairfax” Facebook page, as well as here at johnreedforfairfax.com/news

Talk to you soon!
John

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