News Flash

Fire Department/Emergency Preparedness

Posted on: September 25, 2021

City Officials Test Google Modeling of Evacuation Timing with Evacuation Drill.

People participate in a large-scale evacuation drill

September 25, 2021

The City of Mill Valley conducted its Annual Evacuation Drill on Saturday, September 25 with over 250 residents participating. 

The goal of this year’s drill was a timed event to help validate Google’s current evacuation research. Earlier this year, spurred by Mayor John McCauley, Google researchers worked with Public Safety staff to create and run a computer model based on a wildfire evacuation scenario. After examining the results of the model, which tested the use of “contraflow” and only evacuating with one car per household, the question still remained - How can we quickly move the backup of cars in the canyons and hillsides down to the flatter and safer areas of town? 

Today’s drill involved approximately 250 people lining up their cars on East Blithedale to simulate the gridlock public safety officials expect during the peak of a mass evacuation. 

Running the drill and timing how long it took to clear the roadway will provide Public Safety evacuation planners a better understanding of Mill Valley’s road network, problem intersections, and ways to improve overall community impacts during real-time evacuations.

“We want to thank everyone that participated in the drill,” Mayor McCauley said. “The fact that we had over 250 community members willing to give up a beautiful fall morning to intentionally sit in traffic is a sign of how engaged and dedicated our community members are to safety and emergency preparedness.”

Residents were instructed to prepare for the drill ahead of time – to pack a “Grab & Go Bag” and sign up for AlertMarin Emergency Notification System at www.alertmarin.org and Nixle, by texting “94941” to 888777.

Cars began lining up on East Blithedale in the outbound direction starting at 8:30 am, with the  cars stacking up between Camino Alto and Downtown over the next half an hour. At 9:00 am, public safety personnel escorted cars right onto Camino Alto, and left onto Sycamore toward Bay Front Park. Participants drove down Sycamore Avenue until they were stopped for a quick interaction with volunteers before being released. 

During the drill, staff timed and measured the volume of cars. The data will now be sent to Google researchers to help validate their current evacuation research.

“Overall the drill went very smoothly and we have heard really positive feedback,” said Michelle Terrell, Chair of the City’s Emergency Preparedness Commission. “We are gathering feedback from participants so that we can gain insights from people’s experience during the drill. This data will be key to plan for potential future evacuations.”

The City of Mill Valley, MV Police and MV Fire/SMFD would like to recognize and thank all the local and regional public safety personnel for their efforts in developing the drill. 

Thank you also to the following partner agencies:

  • Mill Valley Middle School
  • Tamalpais United Methodist Church
  • Mill Valley Emergency Preparedness Commission
  • Community Emergency Response Teams (CERT)
  • FIRESafe Marin
  • Southern Marin Fire Protection District
  • Marin County Sheriff’s Office
  • Neighborhood Response Groups
  • Tiburon Police Department
  • Sausalito Police Department

Media Coverage:

Pre Event:

Marin IJ Article
Fox 2 KTVU

Day of Event

KCBS Radio
ABC 7 News
Fox 2 KTVU


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