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Evacuation Zones, four in all, were added to Malibu’s Evacuation Plan in 2019.
Scott Steepleton, Editor
9:16 am PDT July 5, 2021

Signs announcing the boundaries of Malibu’s evacuation zones are being considered as a way to get people out faster in the event of disaster.

The city is split into four evacuation zones: Zone 11 — Malibu city limit (just east of Topanga Canyon) to Malibu Pier; Zone 12 — Latigo Canyon Road to Malibu Pier; Zone 13 — Busch Drive to Latigo Canyon Road; Zone 14 — Ventura County line to Busch Drive.

Evacuation zones are a way for fire personnel to quickly convey the area that needs to be evacuated, which can speed operational activities and reduce communication errors.

When it meets July 7, the city Public Safety Commission could decide to encourage the City Council to place signs marking each zone along Pacific Coast Highway.

With help from the Los Angeles County Fire Department, the zones were added to Malibu’s Evacuation Plan in 2019. Topanga Canyon has Zones 1-9. Zone 10 is being used for the unincorporated area between the city of Malibu and Topanga Canyon.

According to the meeting agenda, an education campaign that included social media posts, postcards mailed to every resident and neighborhood walks by CERT volunteers in eastern Malibu took place in fall 2020.

The idea for boundary signs was a product of that outreach. At the city’s east border, a sign could say “Now Entering Evacuation Zone 11” on one side and “Now Exiting Evacuation Zone 11” on the other.

“Installing signs on PCH requires a Caltrans encroachment permit, and, if the sign cannot be installed on an existing pole, the city would need to obtain a coastal development permit, which requires Planning Commission approval,” according to a staff report. “Therefore, installing signs would require a considerable amount of staff time to process. Installing zone signs could help community members remember which zone they are in and help them to quickly know if an evacuation order applies to them.”

On the other hand, “zone evacuations” don’t happen all that often — and in those large-scale incidents, emergency messaging would always include the boundaries of the zones in addition to the zone numbers.

As an example, a large fire in Topanga that was threatening eastern Malibu would likely prompt emergency messaging along the lines of, “An evacuation order has been issued for Zones 11 and 12, extending from Topanga Canyon on the east to Malibu Canyon on the west, and north to Mulholland.”

City staff is recommending that the commission consider the costs and benefits of installing the permanent signs and make a recommendation to the City Council.

The meeting can be viewed at malibucity.org/virtualmeeting.