Category Archives: Disaster Preparedness

Vegetation Management Post from SR Fire Department

If you’re not a member on Nextdoor, here is some information from Vegetation Management Specialists Patrick Bignardi and Marshall Nau of the San Rafael Fire Department:

Is your property Defensible?

Fire Season is upon us! Is your property defensible in case of a wildfire?

Step 1: Take the test and find out! Click the link below and take the Homeowner Wildfire Assessment.

Step 2: Ask for a Residential Fire Hazard Assessment. Please go to fill out the Residential Fire Hazard Assessment Request Form and an inspector will contact you to schedule an appointment.


Defensible Space for the San Rafael Home in the WUI

Take the basic steps to protect your neighborhood:

The DBCNA Wildfire Defense Bulletin No. 3

On How to Save Your Home and Your Life

Important SRFD mail arrived this last week!
Please be sure to read it carefully.

Your Neighborhood Association wishes to call your attention to the mailer you received from the San Rafael Fire Department this last week.  This critical-information mailer describes the vegetation management needed of each of us to prevent a wildfire from consuming our homes.

Please open it and learn how to follow SR property maintenance regulations that will protect you and your neighbors from the threat of wildfire.  A detailed and very clear diagram shows how to create defensible space around your home – thereby increasing the chance that your home will survive a wildfire.  In addition, you’ll want the helpful phone numbers listed as well as links to useful websites.

So – please check that mail pile and make time to carefully study this essential information.

The DBCNA Wildfire Defense Bulletin No. 2

On How to Save Your Home and Your Life

Every Dominican Black Canyon resident can learn how to deal with the threat of wildfires by watching (lots of pictures and short videos) and listen/reading to this course, particularly the first four lesson sections.

You will learn:

How a wildfire behaves
How homes can ignite when in the proximity of a wildfire
How simple actions can reduce the likelihood of your home being destroyed
How community actions can affect the level of damage caused by a wildfire
And much more

While the course is aimed at fire prevention professionals, it is a major source of information for the homeowner who is living under the perennial threat of wildfire as are all of us living in the Dominican Black Canyon community.

The course is presented in a fashion like that of an online driver education course, with multiple chapters and quizzes at the end of each chapter.  It can be taken all at once or spread out over several days. And it is free.

To access this information, please go to the following site. (This seems to work better on a desktop computer as opposed to an iPad.)

DBCNA Wildfire Defense Bulletin No. 1

On How to Save Your Home and Your Life

Following up on our Wildfire Defense Forum on May 5th, your Neighborhood Assn. will send you added (maybe repetitive, but that’s ok!) facts—just the facts–periodically.

For openers, you have asked about “walk-throughs” (not in your home but outside) by specialists from the SRFD who will show you ways to “harden” your home against the embers of a wildfire.
Both Fire Inspector Pat Bignardi and Fire Inspector Marshall Nau of the SR Fire Dept. are the Vegetation Management Coordinators tasked with protecting the City’s residents and open space from wildfire threats by regularly conducting hazard assessments and inspections for and with property owners. They bring the latest ideas and perspectives based on what has been learned from the Sonoma fires. With about 950 homes in the Dominican area, we suggest you call them now and not wait for the wildfire season to be in full force.

Their contact info is:
Pat Bignardi, work (415) 485-3308 or mobile (415) 847-8385

Marshall Nau, work (415) 485-3457 or mobile (415) 847-8451

Where possible, you may wish to ask your adjacent neighbors if they would like to be included in the walk-through of property at the same time as you, particularly if your homes are close together.

FireWise Expenditure Form for 2017


Yesterday, May 5th, the DBCNA held a Wildfire Defense Forum on the Dominican campus. Those who attended remarked that it was an exceptionally worthwhile event, providing highly useful information.

Now your Neighborhood Association will proceed with applying for a FireWise Certification for Dominican Black Canyon. This certification will benefit our community in, at a minimum, several ways, e.g., the advantages of discounted property insurance rates, the protection from blanket termination of insurance, and continuation of chipper days, to name a few.

The next important step toward FireWise certification is documenting that the neighborhood has already made efforts towards reducing fire risk.  These efforts can be either monetary or time-related.  Any time or money spent toward fire risk reduction counts.

In order to qualify for FireWise certification, DBCNA needs to document outlay of approximately $23,000 total for the entire neighborhood in 2017 (about $24 per household).  Time logged in fire reducing efforts are logged at $24 per hour (the federal volunteer hourly rate). We need your help in documenting that we have reached the FireWise required cumulative total.  You can do this by sending the DBCNA your expenditures from 2017 that will easily allow us to reach that number!


Please submit this form of estimated expenses or time spent towards reducing fire risk for your property in calendar year 2017.

Name: ______________________________


Total expense paid: _________________

Total hours of unpaid labor: _________

You can send this information by:

1. Go online and complete the brief FireWise Expenditure Form 

2. Email Jay Hubert (Fire Committee Chair) at:

3. Print this page, complete the information above and mail to:
P.O. Box 151702
San Rafael, CA 94915-1702

Here is an example on how to complete this form:

John Smith
360 Locust Ave

Total expense paid (to gardeners, contractors, etc): $4200

Total hours of unpaid labor (your hours working on the property): 20

Thank you for helping support this important effort.  If you would kindly submit your form by Friday, May 25th that would be greatly appreciated.

FireSafe Committee Reports


Help us keep our neighborhood safe and get involved in our efforts to create a Firewise Community.   FireSafe Marin’s  website  provides information on fire preparedness, such as creating a defensible space around your home, hardening your house as well as evacuation checklists.  There is also information on what a FireWise Community is and how we can become one.  There is much to learn from the devastating fires in Santa Rosa and even from our own neighborhood fires in the past.  To assist the Dominican FireWise Committee, or for more information about the Committee and our Firewise Community application, please contact Jay Hubert, Chair of the Fire Preparedness Committee at

Meeting from January 25, 2018:

The Dominican Neighborhood Association FireSafe Committee held its first meeting last week to begin work on our application to qualify Dominican as a Firewise Community.  Qualifying will make us eligible for state and federal grants for wildfire prevention projects, help protect homeowners from losing their fire insurance, support free chipper days, and help us plan as a community to prepare for catastrophic wildfire.  The first big step is for us to prepare a community wildfire hazard assessment report.  This includes preparing a history of wildfires in Dominican.  For this, we are looking for a community volunteer to do research at the Marin History Museum. If you would like to contribute by doing this research, please contact Committee Chair Jay Hubert at

Stay tuned for updates on our progress towards becoming a Firewise Community!

Meeting from February 10, 2018

This week a group of Dominican homeowners participated in a neighborhood wildfire preparedness tour organized by Paul Minault of the Dominican FireWise Committee and led by Todd Lando, Coordinator of Firewise Marin. The tour went through backyards with the most challenging conditions, including steep slopes, dense trees, and multiple tree species. Todd explained how to manage trees and shrubs to create defensible space, protect vegetation from wildfire and “harden” the exterior of older homes to prevent ember intrusion, spot fires and the failure of windows and siding due to flames and heat. Pat Bignardi, Vegetation Management Specialist with the San Rafael Fire Department, participated with his advice in this “walk through.”

Our FireWise Committee will be organizing additional tours to educate Dominican residents on the steps they can take to protect their homes from catastrophic wildfire. Stay tuned for the next tour date.

Carabiner on gate

Emergency Evacuation Route for Dominican Heights

In the event of a fast moving wildfire, evacuating Black Canyon down one lane of Mountain View Avenue could be a life-threatening situation. There are approximately 274 homes in the canyon area, many of which are near the open space. The ability to move people out as quickly as possible is critical.

Dominican Heights residents have asked for a number of years to be able to evacuate the 105 homes (from Sienna up through Dominican Dr.) via the gate at the end of Sienna Way. This gate has been locked for years.

The gate is now unlocked, along with the chain link further down the path.

Carabiner on gate

While the trail gate (above) is on City property, the road beyond is private property until it reaches Linden Lane. We have agreement with San Rafael Fire Chief Christopher Gray and the property owner to unlock these barriers for emergency evacuation only.

The residents on Mountain View Ave and connecting streets will continue to evacuate down Mountain View Ave. to Grand.

How to Open Gate at End of Sienna Way

You might want to take a moment to stop by and look at the gate. The gate is closed with a 4” carabiner (see photo above). To open, simply push in the side segment (see below) and weave the carabiner out of the gate latch. The gate has been oiled and easily opens.

carabiner illustration

Further down the path is a chain strewn between two wood posts. The chain now sits on a hook on the right hand post. Just unhook it.

Chain link on hook

Emergency Only

It is important that everyone know this exit route is available, but also respect that this is private property and, in no instance, use this route for anything other than emergency evacuation.

When to Evacuate

In the event of a wildfire, is recommended that you evacuate as soon as possible. If you wait for a mandatory evacuation message from the first responders, it may be difficult for you to get out.


It is possible in an evacuation that taking this route will not be the safest exit. Follow the directions of first responders at all times.

You can learn more about how to prepare for an evacuation on Cal Fire’s website:

If you have questions or comments, send an email to

Wildfire Evacuation Resources and Links

Listed below are links to resources and handouts from the Wildfire Evacuation: What You Need to Know event. If you want to have this presentation for your neighborhood group, HOA, Church group, please contact the Association at

There were a lot of questions about San Rafael Vegetation Management. Currently this is handled by Dave Heida at or you can call the main number at Station 51: 415 485-3307 with questions, requesting an inspection or concerns about neighbor’s vegetation. The overview of the fire regulations, which apply to you if you live in the WUI (Wildland Urban Interface), is item 8 below.

You can listen to the event on Penguin Radio. You might want to try to follow along with the presentation (item 1 below). Listen here.

1. Wildfire Evacuation presentation in PDF format

2. CalFire Ready Set Go Video (6 min)

3. – register all cell phones in your family

4. Grab and Go Checklist

5. Red Cross Emergency Contact Card

6. Ten-in-Ten Form

7. Evacuation Plan Checklist from

8. San Rafael Wildland Urban Interface (WUI) Map (though it is hard to see where you live–use Address Link below)

9. San Rafael WUI List by Address (easier to find your home)

10. San Rafael Vegetation Management Program Compliance Guidelines

11. Cal Fire Ready for Wildfire – Great site and you can download brochures and information

12. General Preparedness including Ready Pets, Ready Kids, and Ready Seniors:

13. Community Wildfire Protection Plan – sign up for Public Meetings in Marin in October




I'm Ready, are you sign.

Rafael Dr. is READY for a Disaster

Rafael Drive is our first neighborhood group to have a majority of participants complete the 5 Simple Steps to Prepare. We have placed a lawn sign in their yards to show off their accomplishment! Take a drive down Rafael and see the participation. Nice job!

This is how ReadyDominican works. We build groups and ask participants to do the 5 Simple Steps:

1. Form a group (that is easy since you start off with one!)

2. Store Water for 5 days (1 gal/per person per day)

3. Put a flashlight by your bed

4. Place a wrench near your gas meter and know how to turn it off (and the water too)

5. Put a pair of shoes and socks under your bed.

When the majority of the group has completed the steps, we ask to put a sign in their yard for ONE WEEK and then we’ll pick them up, and put them in another neighborhood group. Next week: Palm Ave. and St. Francis Lane!

It is easy. Takes little time and it is our first steps to getting Dominican Black Canyon ready to survive an major disaster.

Want a group on your street?

Call Paula at 415 455-5301 or email us at We’ll get your group moving forward.

If you are in a group, or identified as a block captain and need help keeping your organizing moving forward, let us know. Don’t wait for the disaster to happen!

ReadyDominican: Neighbors Knowing Neighbors

Our mission is to have all homes in the Dominican neighborhood organized into groups and prepared for an emergency. Yes, we think big. Be a part of it.

There are a number of emergencies we might have to deal with: wildfire, evacuation, earthquake, and crime-based lockdown are just a few. In all instances, we need to be able to take care of ourselves. First-responders may not be available to help us depending on the size and characteristics of the emergency. Both public agencies and private organizations  in Marin County prepare plans and conduct drills to be ready in the event of an emergency. What are we doing? ReadyDominican is an initiative to organize, prepare, and build our own readiness. We need your participation.

Learn more about readiness complete with checklists and suggestions at You can also register for a CERT class on the site!

The Big Picture

There are 23 firefighters on duty in San Rafael on any one shift. 23 firefights, 57,000 residents which grows to 100,000 during the day. Do the math. Getting help is going to be very difficult. Our first responders will be overwhelmed very quickly. We need to prepare to take care of ourselves.

The ReadyDominican program is based on establishing groups where neighbors share contact information and confirm completion of five basic steps toward emergency preparedness. Our goal is to have at least one member of each neighborhood group complete the Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) course offered by Marin County ( The Dominican Black Canyon Neighborhood Association, who is sponsoring this initiative, will reimburse the CERT training fee upon completion (the course will be offered in September in San Rafael!).

Importance of Communication

We have several small hand-held radio networks active in our neighborhood. If we had no phones or text capabilities, how do we communicate within the neighborhood and with the San Rafael Emergency Operations Center? We need to broaden our communications plan and the best way to do that is through neighborhood groups.

Get Ready Program

We can conduct a Get Ready 90-minute presentation, complete with snacks, to give you a more thorough overview of what you can do to prepare. If you are interested in hosting a presentation for your neighbors, please contact us at

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

I’m very busy. Can I still participate?
We are all busy. We have designed ReadyDominican to show you how easy it is to establish basic preparation at your home. You will see that taking a few additional steps to your life (using our guidance) isn’t such a time consuming task. There are no deadlines or requirements. You can build your readiness at your own pace.

Why should I participate?
Many people think “it won’t happen to me”. Unfortunately, we know the dangers of living in “earthquake country” are real. We also live in a hot, relatively dry, climate adjacent to open space lands susceptible to wildfire. If there is a severe earthquake, it will help to know that the lady two doors down has mobility problems and might need help. In the event of a daytime fire evacuation, it will help to know that the people next door work in San Francisco and their dog is inside the house. Maybe you find that your neighbor has an injury and the local first responders are consumed with other calls following a large event. Participating in ReadyDominican will help you know where nurses, doctors, or CERT team members live nearby. Participating in ReadyDominican leads to knowing your neighbors, so you’ll be able to recognize suspicious activity on the block and alert the authorities in a timely manner. Participation builds community, a sense of belonging and safety. It is YOU that will make this program successful.

Do I have to participate?
No. ReadyDominican is a voluntary program. We are asking all residents to participate to the degree they are comfortable.

Studies show that people are more inclined to prepare after an emergency. We don’t want to wait. Let’s learn from others before we are truly affected by an emergency event. People are also motivated to prepare when they see their neighbors being prepared. That’s why we have set up ReadyDominican. Let’s support each other and build a culture of preparedness within the neighborhood. Meet your neighbors, fill out a ReadyDominican form to share your information, and talk about what each of you are doing to be prepared for an emergency. Pass the word. Whether friends live in the Dominican area or elsewhere, the more we are prepared, the better off we will be when a disaster happens.

How It Works

Building Neighborhood Groups

We are in the process of building groups of 10-20 homes where one neighbor is identified as the Block Preparedness Coordinator. Their responsibility is to maintain contact and critical medical information for the group. Each neighbor in the group fills out a simple form (it takes 3 minutes) with phone numbers, pet information, special skills (medical, CERT, construction, etc.), and more. This information remains confidential with the Block Preparedness Coordinator unless you authorize for it to be shared with the other neighbors in the group.  Once the group is established and the Block Preparedness Coordinator has collected the forms, we build a map showing the authorized information such as names, contact information, special needs, and available skills/tools for each of the participating neighbors.  A copy of this map will be provided to each neighbor in the group. The map is designed to be a concise and effective means of sharing pertinent information which will help neighbors communicate regularly and assist each other in emergencies.

The Block Preparedness Coordinators throughout the entire Dominican neighborhood will be on an email list with each other and the neighborhood association. They will be notified of ReadyDominican program updates, pertinent emergency preparedness information, crime alerts, etc. Each Block Preparedness Coordinator will then communicate the information to their group participants.

Buildng Household Readiness

5steps-graphicAs part of the ReadyDominican program, we ask everyone to do these 5 Simple Steps toward Emergency Preparedness:

1. Form a neighborhood group (see above and let us know if you’d like to be a Block Preparedness Coordinator)

2. Store water for 5 days for your family and pets

3. Place a flashlight next to your bed

4. Know how to turn off your gas and water

5. Place a pair of shoes and socks under your bed

lawn-signOnce the marjority of your neighborhood group has completed these 5 steps, we will offer you the opportunity to place a small sign in your yard that says “I’m Ready. Are you?” for one week. After a week, we’ll remove it and put them in another group’s yards. Why do this? To spread the word. The more places we can get the word out that ReadyDominican is in place and working, the more others will be involved. Anyone driving by your house will see another instance of someone getting prepared and hopefully will want to be involved as well. We appreciate you helping us with this promotional part of the program.

Get Involved. Email Us.

If you want to be a Block Preparedness Coordinator, we will help you get started, give you the program forms, explain the process in detail, and even walk the neighborhood with you. If you want to hold a meeting with your neighbors, we will come speak to your group or coordinate a member of the fire department to be in attendance to answer questions. If you just want to be a part of a group, we’ll work with you to find someone in your neighborhood to be the Block Preparedness Coordinator. Email us at