Get ready now for the next disaster
on October 1, 2010
A troop of fire trucks and police cars provides a barrier marking the fairground, and a single ambulance is parked, its back doors open to reveal a hospital bed. It’s the Contra Costa Emergency Preparedness Fair at Hilltop Mall. Rows of tents line the parking lot, each providing disaster or emergency education, from earthquake and fire simulations to CPR training. The fair, now in its third year, helps residents who want to learn how to be prepared for an earthquake or fire.
Behind the Richmond fire department tent, a crowd of kids and parents surrounds the Life Safety Trailer. This trailer is an educational tool equipped with two smoke modules and quaking capability in order to simulate fire and earthquake disaster scenarios. Inside the trailer, firefighter Rod Woods demonstrates to a group of families how to change batteries for fire alarms and evacuate in the event of a fire.
The children demonstrate an astonishing knowledge of specific information about handling emergencies; they know the importance of having a predetermined emergency meeting location, and of not re-entering a burning house. Parents offer suggestions like “Throw water on the fire,” a strategy firemen do not recommend in a house fire. Better to get everyone out of the home, and call the fire department.
“Many adults don’t know what to do in the case of a disaster like a fire, and they end up listening to their children who have learned about it in school,” Woods says.
Woods suggested that families start educating themselves about disaster preparedness when the children are young, to instill the habit of passing down knowledge from generation to generation. When people don’t encounter these scenarios frequently, it’s easy to forget about the precautions that are essentials for survival.
Terrance Cheong, chief of staff for Contra Costa Supervisor John Gioia, said it’s important to be ready. “Another earthquake could be coming up soon.” Cheong said. “We could have other disasters, as we know from the San Bruno fire.”
Sixth grader Tyler Gauthier participated in the Life Safety Trailer demonstration, and said she comes every year. “A lot of times at the fair they have the little earthquake place where you get to go in and the room will shake,” Gauthier said. “It’s really fun to go to.”
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