Emergency Prepardness — A Reminder
Patrick Muffler, Committee Chair

In this spring newsletter that goes to all residents of Barron Park, I think it is useful to give an overview of emergency preparedness. To those of you who have read my past articles (see newsletter archives at http://www2.bpaonline.org/BP-News/index.html), my apologies for the repetition. But perhaps this review will be a helpful refresher.

The four major types of disasters relevant to Barron Park are floods, toxic spills, terrorism and earthquakes. Of these, a major earthquake is the most important because damage will be great, because it will seriously affect the entire Bay Area, not just a local community, and because it is likely to occur here in the not-too-distant future. The U.S. Geological Survey estimates that there is a 62% chance of a magnitude 6.7 or greater earthquake striking the San Francisco Bay region before 2032 (see http://quake.usgs. gov/research/seismology/wg02/). Such an earthquake, regardless of whether its epicenter is on the San Andreas Fault, the Hayward Fault, or another related fault, will cause major damage throughout the Bay Area. We live in abayside, urban environment similar to that of Kobe, Japan, which in 1995 experienced a magnitude 6.9 earthquake that killed 6,000 people and caused over $100 billion in damage.

In a major earthquake, Barron Park will experience moderate to severe structural damage to residences, a number of injuries, absence of electricity and gas, and disrupted water supply (remember that the Hetch Hetchy water pipeline, which supplies our water, crosses the Hayward Fault!). Government resources will be overwhelmed, and fire and police departments will have to give priority to major, critical facilities such as hospitals. The Palo Alto Neighborhood Disaster Activity (www.cityofpaloalto.org/oes/panda) will supplement city resources, but these volunteer personnel also will be severely taxed in the first phases of a major disaster. Indeed, their first obligation must be to their own families and residences.

The bottom line is that each household in Barron Park will be on its own after a major disaster and should be prepared to provide for its basic needs for several days to a week. We all need to have sufficient emergency supplies to tide us over until outside assistance becomes available and water, electricity and gas are restored. Excellent guidelines for building emergency caches are presented in the 3rd edition of "Living with our faults" (www.cityofpaloalto.org/oes/earthquake/). Comprehensive disaster preparedness kits are sold by the Palo Alto Chapter of the American Red Cross (www.paarc.org/supplies/cat_disaster.htm).

Drinking water will be particularly critical. A person can survive for weeks with minimal food, but only a few days without water. Certainly local, State, and Federal governments will do their best to supply emergency water for drinking and cooking. But these emergency measures will almost certainly take several days to a week to implement. Consequently, each household should take stock of its emergency water sources and be prepared to survive for up to a week without water from any outside source. Guidelines for emergency water are summarized in the Summer 2003 issue of the Barron Park Newsletter (www2.bpaonline.org/BP-News/2003-summer/index.html).

Finally, let's not forget that many of us spend many hours per day away from home and that getting home in the aftermath of a major earthquake is going to be exceedingly difficult. Even if roads and bridges are only lightly damaged, non-functioning traffic lights will produce instant gridlock, as in the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake. The remedy here is obvious: carry an emergency kit in your car. Specific suggestions for such a kit can be found in the Fall 2003 issue of the Barron Park Newsletter (www2.bpaonline.org/BP-News/2003-fall/index.html).

I know that some Barron Park households are well-prepared for a disaster, but I suspect that the great majority (80%?) are not. In the days after a disaster, with water, electricity and gas unavailable, what will this 80% do for the basics of existence? Can this 80% count on the good will of their prepared neighbors, thus reducing their neighbors' preparedness from one week to just a day or two? I would like to think that our community spirit will allow us to muddle through, somehow. But I would worry a lot less if 20% of our households were unprepared rather than 80%. It's up to each of you.