|Ref: Emergency preparedness fair in California community
| 09.14.2007 | 08:01:52 | Views: 1622 |
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Fair urges emergency preparedness
By Theresa Harrington
Contra Costa Times
Walnut Creek is marking the anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks this week with activities to help city employees, other agencies and the public prepare for emergencies.
Simulating a flood emergency, the city teamed up with the American Red Cross on Tuesday to hold drills at City Hall and Heather Farm Community Center.
"Nine days of rain led to some flooding in the Larkey Park area," said recreation supervisor Todd Trimble, who took the role of a shelter manager during the simulation.
Flooding in the city a few years ago prompted this scenario, said Red Cross volunteer Rick Palmer, who heads the local group's "mass care" response team.
Mock victims registered to stay in a Red Cross shelter set up in Heather Farm Park, and police and other city employees staffed Walnut Creek's emergency operations center in the police department downtown. Drill participants also included some residents who have taken Community Emergency Response Training classes.
"The lessons we've learned from Hurricane Katrina are that government can't do it alone and individuals can't do it alone and nonprofits like churches can't do it alone," said Gayle Vassar, the city's community relations manager. "We have to do it together. That's what 'community' is about."
The city will extend its emergency outreach to the general public Saturday, when it co-hosts a free informational fair called "A Celebration of Preparation" in partnership with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
The flooding drills are meant to help the city staff, volunteers and residents understand constraints they could face in a real emergency.
"I think that -- drill, drill, drill -- is the only way to make the workers feel comfortable, and it's the only way to know what the problems are going to be," said Donna Hoffman, 61, a Red Cross volunteer nurse who responded to Florida hurricanes in 2004, Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and floods on the East Coast earlier this year. "The more people are prepared, the less chaotic our community will be in an emergency."
Anticipating that phone service could be out during floods, workers in City Hall and Heather Farm Park communicated with each other through ham radios operated by local amateurs.
Tom Martin, an 82-year-old Rossmoor resident, radioed City Hall to find out how flood control efforts were coming along and to request a generator after electricity was lost.
"That's what it's all about -- having communication," Martin said between calls. "The radio amateurs have been handling emergency communications like this for 50 years, authorized by the (Federal Communications Commission)."
During such emergencies, the county's Animal Control Services Department will coordinate pet shelters, said Tracey Stevens-Martin, who is in charge of the county's "no animal left behind" effort.
"Your average household has 2.1 pets, so there are more than half a million domestic animals in Contra Costa, and many owners are not willing to leave or evacuate unless there's an option for their pets," she said, noting the county recently received three animal trailers that could shelter 300 animals each.
While cities and counties work together to coordinate local emergency response, regional planning is under way to develop a mass care and shelter plan for the 9 Bay Area counties and Oakland, San Francisco and San Jose, said Richard Brown, who works for the Super Urban Area Security Initiative.
The organization receives federal Homeland Security funding and coordinates with the state Office of Emergency Services regional operations center in Oakland.
Individuals and families can do their part by attending the Saturday fair. The event will include local police, Red Cross and fire personnel and vehicles, 72-hour food kits available for purchase, free child fingerprinting, a blood drive and a free tri-tip barbecue for the first 1,000 participants. In addition, there will be emergency tips, presentations and demonstrations.
Dave Ringler, a Red Cross volunteer who participated in the City Hall drill, said the nonprofit organization is in desperate need of volunteers, with about 65 signed up in a county of 1.2 million people.
"It's scary," he said.
He encouraged anyone interested to sign up at the fair or to visit the Red Cross Web site.
Theresa Harrington covers the Walnut Creek area. Reach her at 925-945-4764 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you go
WHAT: "A Celebration of Preparation" emergency fair
WHEN: 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday
WHERE: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 100 Northgate Road, Walnut Creek
DETAILS: Fair information is at http://www.walnut-creek.org. To volunteer for the American Red Cross, visit http://www.bayarea-redcross.org. Pet emergency details are at http://www.cccpep.org.
© 2007 Contra Cost Times