Berkeley unites for earthquake safety

Two community members discuss radios and disaster preparedness during Berkeley's annual city-wide disaster preparedness drill, which took place Saturday. Photo: Emilie Raguso

Two community members discuss radios and disaster preparedness during Berkeley’s annual city-wide disaster preparedness drill, which took place Saturday. Photo: Emilie Raguso

An estimated 2,000 people took part in a city-wide exercise Saturday to help community members prepare for “the big one.” About 35 neighborhood groups, along with local businesses, the Berkeley Unified School District and members of the Northern Alameda County Amateur Radio team, participated in the earthquake drill, which was organized by the Berkeley Community Emergency Response Team (CERT), a program of the Berkeley Fire Department.

Residents learned a range of skills, from how to locate and map gas and water shut-offs, to how to use a garden hose to put out a small fire. They listened to radio station 1610 AM for an emergency broadcast, and signed up to receive test messages from the Berkeley Emergency Notification System via phone and email. They located their two nearest fire stations, and called out-of-area contacts to practice what they might need to do should a major earthquake strike. Runners from community groups took messages to amateur radio operators who work with the city to help facilitate communication should traditional methods fail. Teams of firefighters drove assigned routes throughout the city to assess potential “damage” to determine the most pressing problems. Afterward, they visited neighborhood groups to speak with community members.

And after the event, which ended at 11 a.m., about 150 community members came together in the Frances Albrier Community Center in San Pablo Park to share their experiences and talk about how to improve the drill next year. (See a slideshow from the event below. Mobile users can view the slideshow here.)

About 950 people registered online for this year’s drill, compared to 150 last year, which was the first year the city tried the exercise. A planning team made up of community members helped organize the effort in partnership with the Berkeley Fire Department. The group hopes to double participation in 2014. Residents who didn’t get to participate this year, but would still like to take steps to get prepared, can consult the individual and group activity handbooks (links below) to learn more.

More resources

Join the Berkeley-wide emergency drill April 27 [04.10.2013]

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  • Biker 94703

    When the Hayward Fault goes, it is going to be bad.

    In my neighborhood there was a lot of families with kids figuring out who was going to count the kids if some parents are trapped on the far side of the bay. If you haven’t done it: set up a checklist, delegate some (redundant) responsibilities, store some water, put aside some canned food. You’ll be happy you did.

  • certvolunteer55

    Thank you for posting this terrific article and photos! I’m a CERT volunteer, and it was amazing to see people in lots of neighborhoods coming together, practicing the steps they’d take in an emergency, and making plans to obtain any supplies they were missing or inform neighbors who hadn’t participated. The more people who practice, the better off the whole community will be!

  • Joe Cordes

    A big step forward for Berkeley CERT and neighborhood preparedness. Woot!

  • Marc

    If my neighborhood group had any events, I didn’t see any notices about them, nor do I know how to get onto email or other information loops in the neighborhood. So it might make sense for the city to provide some resources (money or labor) to hand out leaflets a few weeks before the event that provides details about the neighborhood group, what email lists they run, who to contact if you want to participate in emergency preparedness events, and so on. Or find someone to build an web app where you input your address and it gives you the details about your neighborhood group(s).

  • emraguso

    Thank you for your kind words!