Resiliency in Times of Uncertainty

Resiliency in Times of Uncertainty

Posted on September 30, 2020

No one could have ever imagined what this year would bring. Amid the chaos of COVID -19 and the ghastly devastation from the Creek Fire, now the largest single fire in California history, one word continues to be present in our minds: resilience. For years, SHE’s mission has been to work together with low-income families to build and sustain healthy homes and communities. Now more than ever our communities need our help. Families are fearful and stressed, some wondering if their homes will burn down while others fear leaving their homes due to COVID-19 concerns.

Fortunately, SHE’s Emergency Services program, an outgrowth of our efforts to support families during the recent drought, is focused on engaging diverse and vulnerable populations around pandemic relief and natural disasters, such as drought, fire, flood and earthquake. The program also helps families receive urgent access to clean water, help with water well replacement and water filtration services as needed.

Thanks to these early emergency preparation efforts, SHE was primed to serve as first responders during today’s unprecedented events.

SHE and its dedicated community partners, CSET, United Way of Tulare County and Friends of Tulare County (FTC) have worked on promoting the importance of emergency preparedness and COVID-19 prevention through the State funded LISTOS campaign, which now has reached more that 10.5 million Californians.

To add to an already tense environment, the Creek Fire that ignited on September 4th has raged on without a halt in sight, affecting both sides of the San Joaquin River near Mammoth Pool, Shaver Lake, Big Creek and Huntington Lake. Todate, the fire has burned more than 300,000 acres and is still less than half contained.

“Our initial response was to make sure we didn’t have any of our staff and haulers in danger of delivering water or conducting inspections in or near any active fires,” said Tami McVay, Assistant Program Manager for Partner Services. “Shortly after, SHE began receiving frantic calls from residents who were afraid their homes would catch fire from the falling embers, asking to use their tank water to wet down their home as a prevention measure.” SHE soon learned that some tanks were melting as a result of the heat produced by the fires, disrupting safe delivery of water into the homes. SHE is currently seeking funds to help with fire damage caused to residents with water tanks.

The Creek Fire was of particular concern to SHE’s Valley Oaks Apartments, a 24 unit complex located in Oakhurst, which was given an evacuation warning. Residents reported that smoke in the area had become unbearable. Thanks to SHE’s Resident Services and Emergency Services teams, as well as AWI, our Property Management Company, staff mobilized necessary service providers, connected with volunteers, and had staff at the property immediately. Within a few hours, residents had an evacuation plan in place.

“A resident’s safety is our top priority and the coming together of partners to bring resources and assurance to families at Valley Oaks during this emergency was assuring and provided confidence that everything would be okay,” said Patrick Isherwood, Program Director for SHE’s Asset Management Department.

Tami attributes SHE’s quick response to the years of building solid communication and relationships with other nonprofits, CBO’s, municipalities and counties. “We’ve truly become a trusted partner,” said Tami.

Our mission to build and sustain healthy communities is at the forefront of our emergency response efforts. When disaster hits, it doesn’t discriminate. “It affects folks that are experiencing homelessness, senior citizens and newborns. It doesn’t matter what your housing situation is like or your background; disaster affects everyone. When one person can prepare themselves, then that person can share with their neighbor and so on, creating an incredible chain of awareness and preparation.”

If you’ve been affected by the Creek Fire or COVID-19, please contact us at (559) 651-1000.


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