Revised Evacuation Map

By Kelly Mahan Herrick   |   November 29, 2018

On Monday, December 3, the County Office of Emergency Management is set to release a revised Debris Flow Risk Map, which includes revisions to current evacuation zones. The release of the map will be followed by three community meetings in Montecito and Carpinteria in the coming weeks.   

The County released the current Debris Flow Risk Map in October, with the knowledge that a more scientifically accurate map was being finalized by an engineering firm called Adkins Engineering. “At the time we felt it was incumbent upon us to utilize the best scientific data that we had, in case we saw rainfall that would trigger an evacuation,” said Montecito Fire’s Division Chief of Operations Kevin Taylor, who is part of the team that is currently reviewing the new map before it’s released next week. Taylor explained the new map is based upon data including empty debris basins, cleared creek channels, and the new topography left behind after the 1/9 debris flow. “It’s in conjunction with the current risk map; all that material was combined and utilized to determine today’s debris flow risk. It is the absolute best available scientific data we have,” he said. 

The new map will likely reduce the number of parcels – currently there are 2,496 – that will be under mandatory evacuation if predicted rainfall totals reach .8-inch per hour. “We are currently reviewing the new map, and going parcel to parcel excluding those we believe are not at risk of debris flow,” he said. In addition, Taylor expects to add parcels to the evacuation zone that are excluded on the current map. “There are a couple areas of our community that are being added because of new topography, or because they were previously affected by the debris flow,” he explained. 

The new map is similar to the current map in that there are no longer “mandatory” and “voluntary” evacuation zones denoted by “red” extreme risk and “yellow” high risk zones. The new map, like the current map, alters the red area by drilling it down to parcels; meaning that an entire property will be in or out of the risk zone, leaving less room for confusion on whether a homeowner should leave during an evacuation. The interactive map will allow users to type in their address, and if their parcel is located in the red zone, it will be very clear that the property is under evacuation. Those residents who are not in the evacuation zone are not expected to leave during a predicted storm, but they should know that there is a chance they will be isolated and without utilities.

New to the map will be seven Safe Refuge Areas identified, an idea that was developed after a community meeting in October. “If a resident decides to evacuate during, rather than before a storm, and does not feel safe leaving the district, there are a number of places that we consider it safe to travel to,” Taylor said. Those areas include All Saints-by-the-Sea church, Birnam Wood, Cold Spring School, Crane School, the upper village, Mount Carmel, and Vons shopping center. 

Taylor tells us the newest map was developed with a more surgical approach, with officials scrutinizing each parcel to determine its risk. “It’s important to understand that the areas that we consider at risk for debris flow, when we get .8 inches of rain per hour, are the areas that will be evacuated. Those community members who we feel are not at risk will not be asked to leave, but they can leave if they want to. It’s more appropriate for them to make that decision rather than us,” he said. 

Once the new map is released, residents whose evacuation status has changed will be able to find out why it has changed. “There will be a way for property owners to learn why their property was included when it was previously excluded, and excluded when it was previously included. We made sure to ask Adkins Engineering for those explanations,” Taylor noted.

The County and local authorities will continue to use a variety of methods for notification this winter, including door-to-door knocking, Aware & Prepare alerts, social and traditional media, and WEA messages. It is imperative that all residents sign up for notifications using Aware & Prepare, which can be found at The new map will also be available on that site, by Monday December 3; we’ll have more details in next week’s edition. 

The community meetings will focus on the new map as well as reiterate the County’s evacuation plans. They are scheduled for Wednesday, December 5, at 5:30 pm at the Veterans Memorial Building in Carpinteria; and Wednesday, December 12, at 5:30 pm at Montecito Union School. A meeting hosted in Spanish is also scheduled for Monday, December 10, 5:30 pm, at St. Joseph’s Church in Carpinteria. The meetings will be broadcast live at  


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