The winter storm of November 7, 2005 which knocked out power for the entire Big Valley area and paralyzed the valley for 2 days was a notification of the vulnerability of this area in case of any kind of disaster. The most dangerous situation was the complete running out of water for the Bieber municipal supply.
Soon after the storm, negotiations were started with Lassen County Emergency Services to see if funds could be obtained to purchase a backup electric generator. This would be used to power the deep well pumps which fill the water tower. It was felt that backup electricity would only be needed for a few hours a day during power outages. It would not make much sense to purchase a fixed unit which would sit unused most of the year and only be run for a few hours. For this reason, plans were made to get a mobile trailer mounted generator which could be used for multiple community emergency needs.
3 candidates for use were found; the water district for pumping needs, the Memorial Hall, which is an emergency shelter and the Big Valley Medical Center. Neither the Memorial Hall nor the Medical Center presently have any emergency power.
Today, a meeting took place between all concerned parties. Chip Jackson, Lassen Counties Director of Emergency Services, was there to iron out details for the plan. Mr. Jackson arranged for funds from Homeland Security to become available and explained that a purchase could now be made.
The plans involve for the generator to be stored and maintained by the Bieber Volunteer Fire Department. Volunteer firemen would be trained in the setting up and operation of the generator. Some electrical work will be done to wire the Medical Center and the Memorial Hall so it can be connected. The intent is to share use amongst all 3 sites.
This is feasible because usage at the 3 sites can be done at different times. For example; during the last power outage, which lasted for about 2 days, the Medical center could have operated fully during the day. The Memorial Hall could have hosted voting during the evening. The water pumping could have been done during the wee hours of the morning as it only takes about 3 hours to fill the tank. We could have had the Memorial Hall lit and heated for the last election rather than cast our ballots under candle light, we would not have run out of water and the medical center could have been open. In a real disaster, the Memorial Hall now becomes a viable emergency shelter with warmth and cooking facilities available. Under worst case conditions, even though cots are not in place, mats used for the High School wrestling team would offer sleeping for a large number of people even if the area is completely cut off from the outside world.
Not bad work to supply disaster preparedness, and we are doing it on a shoe string!