Emergency Preparedness

By Patrick Muffler

Types of disasters
Why should residents of Barron Park take the time to learn about emergency preparedness and spend the money to become prepared? The simple answer is that there are four major types of disasters that could seriously affect our community: earthquakes, floods, toxic spills and terrorism.

Most of us are aware that we live in "Earthquake Country", and almost all of us have felt the small earthquakes that jolt the Bay Area every few months. Some of us remember the 1989 magnitude 6.9 (M=6.9) Loma Prieta earthquake located in the Santa Cruz Mountains, although Barron Park was spared the major damage that affected the Santa Cruz Mountains and parts of San Francisco and Oakland. Few of us, however, have ever experienced a large earthquake (M> 6.7) on one of the major faults that criss-cross the Bay Area. The U.S. Geological Survey estimates that there is a 70% chance of at least one magnitude 6.7 or greater earthquake striking the San Francisco Bay region between 2000 and 2030 (USGS Fact Sheet 152-99; see http://quake.usgs.gov/). Such an earthquake, regardless of its exact location, would cause major damage throughout the Bay Area. Keep in mind that the 1995 M=6.9 earthquake in Kobe, Japan, a bayside urban area not unlike the San Francisco Bay Area, killed 6,000 people and caused over $100 billion in damage!

Many of us have had first-hand experience with floods in Barron Park, in particular the 1983 floods from Matadero and Barron Creeks. Maps prepared by Doug Graham show that 90 acres, or about 20% of Barron Park was affected by this flooding — and this was only a "20-year" flood. Although subsequent work by the Santa Clara Valley Water District has greatly improved the situation, there are still certain scenarios that could cause this community disaster to be repeated.

Toxic spills
Barron Park is located next to a light industrial area with a low but real possibility of toxic spills. In addition, nearby transportation arteries provide potential sources of toxic spills.

Finally, the events of 11 September 2001 shocked us into the realization that terrorist attacks are a real possibility, albeit inherently unpredictable in space, time and nature. Guidelines for preparedness and response are only now being prepared by the Federal Government. Emergency Preparedness in Barron Park

Emergency preparedness in a community like Barron Park takes two forms: (1) community preparedness, and (2) household preparedness. Neither alone is sufficient.

Community preparedness is represented by the activities of organizations such as the Barron Park Emergency Preparedness Committee (www.bpaonline.org) and the Palo Alto Office of Emergency Services. Activities fall under the general categories of education, inventory of emergency equipment, and emergency response training. Palo Alto has an excellent training program (PANDA) to provide a cadre of trained individuals to supplement and support the Palo Alto Fire Department, whose resources will be overwhelmed in a major disaster, and whose efforts of necessity must be directed towards facilities of highest priority (e.g., hospitals). The Barron Park Association has been a leader in preparedness education, having worked closely with the City of Palo Alto in the preparation of "Living with our Faults—an Earthquake Preparation guide."

Household preparedness boils down to the ability of each household to provide for its basic needs for at least several days to a week, without any assistance from an outside government or private entity. In a major disaster, each household will be on its own. We can anticipate disrupted water supplies (remember that the Hetch Hetchy water pipeline crosses right over the Hayward Fault!), absence of electricity and gas, and perhaps significant structural damage to our dwellings. We all need to have sufficient emergency supplies to tide us over the period until outside assistance becomes available and utilities are restored.

The essentials of any cache of emergency supplies are water, food, a battery powered radio and first-aid supplies. Excellent guidelines for emergency caches are presented in the 3rd edition of "Living with our Faults", published in 1994 by the City of Palo Alto— www.cityofpaloalto.org/fire/earthquake/ (see table of contents). For those who choose not to build their own emergency caches, the American Red Cross sells a wide selection of Disaster Preparedness Kits that are described in detail at www.paarc.org/supplies/cat_disaster.htm.

How well are we prepared?
Some Barron Park households are well-prepared, but most are poorly aware of the potential disasters and consequently are ill-prepared. Although precise statistics are lacking, perhaps 80% of our households fall in the unprepared category. In the case of a major emergency, what will this 80% do for the basics of existence? For the first week after a disaster, none of us can expect any help from government agencies, utilities or other outside entities. If those who are unprepared depend on the good will of their prepared neighbors, their neighbors' preparedness is reduced from one week to just a day or two, and then everyone is in trouble.

Hence, the major goal of the Barron Park Association and its Emergency Preparedness Committee is to greatly increase the percentage of households prepared for a disaster. The first step is an awareness of our vulnerability. The second is each household taking some simple steps to assure adequate supplies of emergency water, food, etc. for a week without assistance.

To this end, we strongly encourage you to fill out and return the form provided in this newsletter. This will achieve two things: (1) provide the Barron Park Association with a better inventory of the resources available in an emergency, and (2) encourage you to think about the steps each individual household should take to prepare for the disaster that someday surely will strike Barron Park. The on-line form is at www.cyberstars.com/bpa/emergency.