Emergency Access Activity Log

by Les Earnest (les at cs.stanford.edu)

Here is a summary of the actions taken and results obtained so far regarding emergency access issues in the Town of Los Altos Hills, California.

8/23/94  Acting as a Neighborhood Coordinator in the Town’s emergency preparedness program, I presented a memorandum to the Safety Committee describing the need for an emergency access route in the O’Keefe Lane neighborhood and suggested eight possible routes, also depicted on an accompanying map. The Safety Committee chose to ignore this issue.

11/1/94  In my capacity as Pathways Committee Chair, presented a memo to the Safety Committee pointing out the lack of emergency access on East and West Sunset Drives and the fact that the existing pathway connection between the ends of those roads could be used to provide such a route. The Safety Committee chose to ignore this issue.

1/14/95  In my capacity as Pathways Committee Chair, again pointed out to the Safety Committee the need to provide emergency access routes for residents.  The Committee agreed to address this issue but then failed to follow through.  However with the Council’s concurrence they agreed to form a joint subcommittee with Pathways to address the emergency access issues.

2/6/95 to 8/7/95  The Emergency Access Subcommittee held a series of monthly meetings during which we reviewed the existing fire roads, interviewed the Fire Chief regarding the needs of his department, produced some recommendations that we sent to the Council, all written by me, then shut down when it became evident that nobody besides me thought that anything should actually be done.

6/15/04  Starting another run at the problem, I gave the Fire Commission a presentation at their regular meeting, accompanied by a two page memo calling specific attention to the O’Keefe Lane and Sunset Drive emergency access problems as well as the locked gate issue.  The Commission, led by the Chair, shrugged it off, saying these were not their problems.  I believe that the lack of fire truck access to my neighborhood and others really is their problem but I have no political clout there.

7/1/04  I presented the same two issues to the Town Council during the public access period, limited to a 3 minute presentation, and gave them a two page memo providing additional information.  Mayor O’Malley expressed interest in the issues, so I hoped that the Council will eventually undertake a more careful review of these problems.

8/9/04  Recognizing that there were more issues to be examined than could be presented within the 3 minute limit during public discussions before the Council, I posted a more complete review titled "Are you ready for the next big one?" on this date, listing five main questions that should be examined. I subsequently sent email pointers to Council and senior Town staff members.

8/19/04  I was pleased to learn that Council had asked staff to review the issues I had raised and present a report on this date but was dismayed to find that the report addressed only two of the five questions I had raised and presented a series of erroneous "Field Observations" saying, in effect that there were no problems.

10/19/10 Having updated my proposal for a review of emergency access routes so as to consider the use of breakaway locks at pathway access points, so that anyone could get access with a hammer, I presented it again to the Los Altos Hills Fire Commission and was most pleased to learn that this time they liked it and informally agreed to review this matter at their January 2011 meeting and make a recommendation to the new City Council. However as the result of a change in the Commission's Chair that didn't happen.

10/23/12 & 11/27/12 In the Traffic Safety Committee meeting Open Discussion segment on 10/23/12 I introduced the topic of neighborhood access in emergency situations by again referring to my online article,  Are you ready for the next big one?, and asking that this matter be taken up by the Committee at their next meeting. However at the November meeting it was put at the end of the agenda and, because the Chair allowed discussions to ramble on endlessly, it was not discussed. Instead the Committee voted to cancel the December meeting and put it on the agenda for January 2013.