The Student News Site of Sonoma State University

Sonoma State Star

The Student News Site of Sonoma State University

Sonoma State Star

The Student News Site of Sonoma State University

Sonoma State Star

    Sonoma Sheriff distributing evacuation tags ahead of fire season


    With California’s fire season rapidly approaching, public safety officials in Sonoma County are working hard to make sure they are prepared for whatever may come. One of the newest ways the Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office is preparing is by issuing brand new “evacuation tags” to some of the most at risk areas in the county. 

    The tags, which began distribution in late April, are being used as a more efficient way for sheriff’s deputies to find and help those who need more assistance during evacuations. Homeowner’s will put the tags on their door to notify authorities that they have left the area.

    “We saw that other counties were using these tags, in particular Napa County right next door, and we saw them as a really valuable tool to help speed up evacuations, which keeps our community and our deputies safer,” said Community Engagement Liaison for the Sheriff’s Office, Misti Wood.

    Wood, a Sonoma State alumni, went on to explain that tags are available for people who live in unincorporated Sonoma County, the town of Windsor, and the City of Sonoma and can be picked up from any of their designated distribution spots, which can be found at

    For those unable to physically go pick up their tags, there are a few other options they can use to ensure they receive one.

    “We have some people who are elderly or disabled, and may not be able to drive to the station to pick it up, so for those folks who need a little extra help, we’re happy to do deliveries as well,” Wood said.

    Tags may also be picked up in bulk for those looking to distribute them throughout their community or neighborhood. Woods says the Sheriff’s Office has, “found that this kind of ‘grass-roots’ distribution has been working really well.”

    While the tags are meant to be something beneficial from Sonoma County, some members in the community have expressed concerns over the tags becoming a possible target for looting during evacuations.

    Facebook user Daniel Bryant commented under the Sheriff’s Office’s post regarding the tags saying, “I’m torn on this greatly, because while I know they need the support, I’d hate to have my home looted.”

    The Sheriff’s Office is well aware of these concerns and have put plans in place to do their best job protecting people’s property.

    “When we have a large fire and issue evacuation orders, people who want to take advantage already know that you’re gone,” Wood said. “We know that’s the case and that people’s property and homes are vulnerable during an evacuation order, and we have really beefed up security in those areas.” 

    According to Wood, the Sheriff’s Office has averaged around a dozen arrests per fire each year, and of those, only a handful have actually been charged with looting.

    “What we’re finding is we’re catching people before they cause problems. We can’t say for certain that every person in there is there to loot, we can’t prove that. However, when somebody is there who doesn’t live there… it’s clear that they’re not there for a legitimate reason,” Wood said.

    All residents in the affected areas are encouraged to pick up the tags, and while they’re not mandatory, they will be a huge factor in how evacuations are handled in the future.

    “These are optional, but we would really encourage everybody to take advantage of it, because this is the idea of ‘small things making a big difference during a crisis,’” Wood said, “That’s really our goal. We want to get you and our deputies out of the way so the firefighters can focus solely on their mission.”

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