Quakeville 2011 — Save the Date
September 10-11

By Lydia Kou
Chair, Emergency Preparedness & Safety Committee

In a disaster, the American Red Cross will have the predominant role in providing shelter to the victims (long-established national protocols). Their strong preference is to have mass shelters in gymnasiums, schools and other buildings with large open rooms, but in certaincircumstances they will create tent cities. In Palo Alto, Cubberley Community Center is designed to be this mass shelter.

In the TV coverage of disasters, you have undoubtedly seen pictures of people crowded into gyms, sleeping on mats and cots (see photo below). What you see less often, because it doesn’t make as good TV, are the people that get stuck in auditoriums with bolted down chairs and fixed armrests, as was the case in the Superdome during Hurricane Katrina. It is only slightly better than getting stuck in tourist class in a crowded airplane sitting on the tarmac.

Which would you prefer?
Mass ShelterQuakeville 2010
Picture of gymnasium filled with cots and very clutteredPicture of tents in a park
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The motivation for Quakeville is to be able to have something that falls in between sheltering in your own house and evacuating to a mass shelter. One of the observed effects of mass shelters is that people lapse into just sitting around waiting to be told what to do, a predictable response to the stress from the crowding piled on top of the stress from the disaster. Quakeville allows people to be more spread out, while still having enough people close enough together to encourage them to work together, as well as providing the psychological support of seeing that they are still part of a community.

The Quakeville exercise has multiple purposes. For families, it encourages you to think about what you would need should you have to evacuate, and then provides a simple test of that plan. There are many things to consider: shelter (tent, sleep gear), food and cooking, hygiene, entertainment, medical and other special needs,... For the BPA Emergency Preparedness effort, it allows us to test and further develop plans for how to run such a facility. And unlike normal camping with family and friends, part of the experience is being thrown together with people you may not know in a simulated disaster setting.

The first Quakeville occurred in 2010, an idea of mine that was adopted by then-Mayor Pat Burt who obtained City sponsorship (in the photo above, his is the tent with the light brown top). That exercise was attended by many Barron Park residents; some were your very own Block Preparedness Coordinators (BPCs). Also participating were the Palo Alto CERTs (Community Emergency Response Team, formerly "PANDAs"), the local chapter of the Red Cross, Boy Scout Troop 52, the Palo Alto Fire Department’s Explorer Post and Palo Alto Police Department.

Quakeville is what you make it. I hope that you will join me, either as “just” a resident, or as a community emergency preparedness volunteer. Besides, when do you get a chance to camp outside in one of our city’s public parks (other than Foothill)?

To participate, please contact Lydia Kou, Lkou@apr.com