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Sunday, Mar 3, 2024

Disasters Forcing Us to Focus on the Basics

Is the greater-Valley area disintegrating as we speak? Take stock at what has happened here in the past few weeks. One-quarter of the Angeles National Forest surrounding our valleys burned up in the biggest wildfire in the county’s history. Two firefighters were killed when their truck plummeted down a canyon. At this writing, the blaze had grown to 160,000 acres but was more than half contained. It destroyed dozens of structures and paralyzed commerce in the foothill areas such as Tujunga, La Crescenta, La Canada Flintridge and up through Acton toward Palmdale and Lancaster. These are places full of lots of small businesses that can’t lose a day’s revenues let alone several days due to a crisis situation such as this. It has been devastating to many there. As the fires still were burning in those areas, the San Fernando Valley was erupting with bizarre bursts of water pipes which flooded homes and almost ate an entire fire truck. In one incident, a 95-year-old trunk line failed in Studio City and sent a 10-foot gusher of mud and water into homes and businesses. Then, a few days later, a sinkhole opened up in Valley Village and started to swallow the truck. The service line that ruptured was only 40 years old and should have lasted much longer. Obvious infrastructure problems. While the mayor and city council scramble to find out what the problem is and water officials try to fend off criticisms of wasting money on the wrong things, let’s try to sort this out ourselves in the local business community. Our tradition at the Business Journal is to not ignore the reporting of the bad things but try to learn from them. Also, we try to look at some positive things going on amid the bad and look hopefully into the future. So what did we learn from these disasters? You’ve got to remember where we live. I used to live in Kansas and this ain’t Kansas. In that state you had tornados at a certain time of year and you had floods every few decades and you had some bad blizzards every several years. But it wasn’t a roller coaster ride of natural disasters every year mixed up with millions of people in a fairly small area. So, prepare for the fact that this isn’t Kansas. Don’t run your business on the edge so that you can’t recover from being closed for a week or two. Don’t open a business in the foothills if fires bother you. It could be as simple as that. I’m not trying to be flippant, I just find that sometimes people do some obviously wrong things for them then complain about it. Our economy in our valleys can be more vulnerable because of natural disasters that occur quite frequently, actually. Businesses need to operate with clear disaster plans and safeguards so that things are protected when it all goes crazy. This means offsite backups of all information and perhaps a strategy of how to produce if you can’t do it at your site. I know, I know sometimes this isn’t enough. Everything burns down. How about a regional business disaster organization that helps firms prepare for all the specific disasters that we have such as fires, mudslides, earthquakes, explosions? There is disaster preparedness that exists, I know, but there needs to be an independent business organization completely dedicated to this one that every small business knows exists. If there is such an organization, I apologize, I don’t know it. And many other small businesses probably don’t know about it. We have way too many disasters here to not have such a focused organization. Back to the burst water pipes. The business community needs to absolutely demand that our officials pay attention. Just pay attention to the basics. How about paying attention for just the next five years. Get our infrastructure even 10 percent to where it should be. Stop the politics. Stop the excuses. Stop wasting money. Be accountable for every dollar that they spend. Make sure that it is going to basic things such as real infrastructure improvements that help businesspeople and people in general. We need to demand it. Business Journal Editor Jason Schaff can be reached at (818) 316-3125 or at editor@sfvbj.com .

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