Radio personality joins recovery effort |

Radio personality joins recovery effort

Jeff Ackerman

It was difficult to get Gary Dietrich to stand still as he unloaded several hundred of his Safely Out evacuation kits he and his team of volunteers brought to South Lake Tahoe from Sacramento in a U-Haul van Thursday morning.

Dietrich is one of those tireless humanitarians who sees a need and tries to fill it. The political analyst and talk radio personality saw that need up close and personal when he accompanied the Red Cross to Louisiana in the days following Hurricane Katrina.

“What I saw (in Louisiana) was a gap in the whole Katrina deal and how to get those who are most vulnerable out of there,” said Dietrich,

Who are the vulnerable? They are the elderly, disabled, the children at home alone after school and many more.

In fact, the Angora fire has served as a wake-up call to most of us who are nowhere near ready for the moment we may have just a couple of minutes to grab what we can and literally run for our lives, leaving behind a lifetime of belongings.

When he returned to Sacramento, Dietrich joined forces with the Sacramento Sierra Chapter of the Red Cross to develop what is called a Safely Out kit. “Initially we were thinking floods,” said the 50-year-old Dietrich. “But it really didn’t matter if it was a fire, flood, or any natural or man-made disaster. The kits provide the essentials that might one day be the difference between life and death.”

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Through a $10,000 donation from a Sacramento-area church, Dietrich and his Citizen Voice group ( were able to bring 1,000 of the kits to South Lake Tahoe. They distributed many of them during a Wednesday evening Town Hall meeting at South Tahoe Middle School and spent most of Thursday morning handing out the rest of them at the fire lines down near Miller’s Outpost near the “Y.”

The Safely Out kits include:

• Door hangers. A red one reads “Need Help” and a green one reads “Safely Out.”

• A Safely Out bag to store medications and other critical information (prescriptions, insurance information, etc.).

• Safely Out information sheets, which you could leave behind to provide details on how you can be contacted. In many cases friends and family rush to help, only to find the home empty, or destroyed. Families are often separated,

• A refrigerator magnet for recording essential evacuation information, including contact details for nearby helpers to assist in the evacuation. It comes with an erasable pen for use on the magnet. There is also a permanent marker for the door hanger and an adhesive strip, if needed, for placing the Need Help door hanger on a window if the front door is not easily visible.

“My mission is to help people get involved; to help them help others,” said Dietrich. His goal is to raise $1 million to prepare and distribute 100,000 kits throughout the region. Through his contacts with state lawmakers and the governor’s office, Dietrich says there has been a lot of support for his efforts. He also hopes this week’s fire will serve to remind others of the need to be prepared for what will likely be a very busy fire season.

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