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Scott Steepleton, Editor
9:46 am PDT September 4, 2020

Did you get it? The emergency text alert and voicemail test message the city of Malibu sent out on Sept. 3?

The new Malibu Disaster Notification System is intended to provide cellphones in the 90265 and others who opt in voice and text alerts in the event of an earthquake, wildfire, terror attack or other serious calamity.

That’s nearly 12,000 numbers.

The message came through to my phone and email as planned. 

The test is part of the city's National Disaster Preparedness Month activities. If you didn’t get the message, sign up for email notifications hereYou can also call City Hall at 310-456-2489 ext. 368 or email

Every time I drive through a “Woolsey neighborhood” I can’t help but tear up for those who lost it all to that devastating blaze in November 2018.

As of this writing, just seven of the nearly 500 owners in Malibu whose dwellings were destroyed have received final occupancy permits. Others are rebuilding.

But there are still many empty lots, and some with just the chimney standing, or a pile of brick that used to be a chimney.

My family was displaced from our home for months because of the Thomas Fire, which predates Woolsey by a year. Our losses were nowhere near that of those whose homes were destroyed; rather, we suffered top to bottom interior damage related to smoke and soot blowing in at 80 mph.

We lost carpeting, clothing, our mattresses, the clothes dryer. (At the urging of our insurance carrier, a special cleaning crew came in, took it apart, cleaned it inside and out, put it back together and still it smelled like a fresh fire the moment the cleaners turned it on.)

The attic also had to be cleaned, and the insulation removed and replaced because of soot intrusion.

In times like these, after fighting with the insurance company and vendors who have to do their jobs sometimes three times before they get it right, you say, “Next time, I’m going to…” Then you realize, “Wait. I don’t want there to be a ‘next time.’”

I don’t want there to be another wildfire.

I don’t want to drag my family from hotel to hotel, birds in tow, waiting to go back home.

I don’t want to fight again with another insurance adjuster.

Then you realize this is Southern California, and what you want is not necessarily what you get.

A text alert may not save your home, but it is another important piece of your preparedness toolkit.


Scott Steepleton is editor of the Malibu Surfside News. Email him at