Emergency Preparedness in the Tri-Valley

Being prepared in the event of an emergency can be the key to keeping yourself, loved ones, and coworkers safe and sound. In addition to national efforts, the Tri-Valley offers a number of local programs to help train and serve those who live and work here, so that clear heads and preparation will prevail over even the most disastrous situations. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the America Prepared Campaign, the American Red Cross, the National Association of Broadcasters, and the U.S. Department of Education joined a coalition of more 50 national organizations to engage Americans in emergency preparedness by launching National Preparedness Month on September 9, 2004. Here, we will take a look at local resources and efforts that can help keep Tri-Valley residents safe and well-prepared should an emergency occur.

Emergency Preparedness Begins at Home

While it's important to be prepared at your place of business, it's equally important to be sure that everything will be alright at home in case you can't get there if a major emergency occurs. "If people are not prepared at home, they're not prepared to respond at work because their mind is focused on their family and loved ones," says Tessa Burns, disaster preparedness coordinator for the Livermore-Pleasanton Fire Department (LPFD). "One of the things that we teach in our one-hour disaster preparedness courses is personal preparedness for employees so they can become prepared at home and at work."

While training resources will be discussed later in this article, the LPFD offers an abundance of home preparedness information on its website (www.lpfire.org) including advice and checklists, as well as its own 34-page Livermore-Pleasanton Fire Department's Family Disaster Preparedness Guide at www.ci.pleasanton.ca.us/pdf/livfamdis00.pdf. In addition, the LPFD's site provides a number of links to information from other organizations, including the American Red Cross and the California State Office of Emergency Services. The Pleasanton Police Department also has an Emergency Preparedness program that discusses ways of preparing your family, home, and neighborhood for disasters. For information on these resources, call the Police Department's Crime Prevention Unit at (925) 931-5100.

A number of events are held annually to help instruct families about emergency preparedness and safety. For example, ValleyCare Health Systems, along with the cities of Pleasanton, Livermore and Dublin, and Alameda County presented the 1st Annual Tri-Valley Health and Safety Day on September 11 at the Alameda County Fairgrounds. The LPFD also held a safety event Fairgrounds to teach emergency skills to all members of the community. The instruction included teaching children how to crawl under smoke and evacuate a house safely. Training such as this helps in many ways. If you're at work and your children are at home or at school, it can be reassuring to know that they know how to respond to emergencies.

Emergency Preparedness in the Workplace

"Emergency responders are going to have their hands full for at least the first three to five days following a major disaster and many folks may get a busy signal when they call 911," Burns says. "We're trying to teach businesses how to be prepared and have their employees be able to help each other out in the event of an emergency." To meet this objective, the LPFD offers a wide range of training and other resources for emergency preparedness ranging from written documentation to hands-on emergency simulations. The Department's website offers emergency information for businesses that include links to the Institute for Business & Home Safety's A Disaster Planning Toolkit For The Small Business Owner, the Federal Emergency Management Agency's (FEMA), Emergency Management Guide for Business & Industry, the American Red Cross' Business & Industry Guide, and excerpts from the National Fire Protection Association's Introduction to Employee Fire and Life Safety - all of which can be reached by going to www.lpfire.org/firedpresources.html#business. However, one of the most important services that the LPFD provides is training.

"In May, we announced free disaster preparedness presentations that we're offering both to the community and to businesses, so that if a major disaster or a large emergency were to occur, employees know what to do," Burns says. The one-hour courses teach people personal and workplace emergency preparedness, require an attendance of 20 or more people, and can be customized for individual businesses, schools, hospitals, or other groups. Attendees are taught how to deal with situations like fires, earthquakes, as well as teaching general disaster preparedness.

Another notable training effort made by the LPFD is its Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) program. CERT classes offer hands-on training in disaster first aid, basic fire fighting, disaster preparedness, damage assessment, utility control, light search and rescue operations, and team emergency organization. The training ends with a hands-on exercise where students organize into a team, rescue volunteer victims, conduct triage and disaster medicine, and extinguish a fire. A hard hat and vest as well as certification are provided to all CERT-trained participants. Instructors for the CERT courses include firefighters, paramedics, and search and rescue experts from LPFD.

Customized CERT classes for businesses (up to 25 people in a class) take a total of around 16 hours and can change depending on the business' needs, with dates based on the attendees' schedule and instructor availability. The classes can be conducted at a business location (with the exception of putting out a live fire) or at the Fire Training Tower on Busch Rd. in Pleasanton. A "train-the-trainer course" is also available for businesses who want to train 26 or more employees. In this program, the LPFD trains several members of a business' staff on how to provide CERT training to other employees. Participants receive training materials and PowerPoint presentations to use in their classes.

While the LPFD tries to keep CERT classes at around 25 people, smaller businesses can gather with other businesses to reach the minimum number of attendees. For example, if businesses get together as a group, they can choose a facility to receive CERT training at the same time or be put on a list by the LPFD with other local businesses until the minimum number of students is achieved and a location chosen. CERT classes are also offered to the community. The classes take place once a week for six weeks from approximately 6:00 pm - 9:30 pm. The next course will take place from October 14 to November 18 on Thursdays at the Fire Training Tower.

LPFD rescue personnel use "cribbing" in this case a pile of 4x4 boards, to demonstrate the use of a lever to lift a heavy object.

Local Emergency Response

The LPFD Operations division is always a 911 call away, whether the problem is a fire or other situation. Services include:

  • Fire Suppression for fires in buildings of all types, car fires, grass or rubbish fires, etc.

  • Emergency Medical Response with personnel trained as Firefighters/Paramedics and Emergency Medical Technicians who can provide Advanced Life Support (ALS) as well as Basic Life Support (BLS).

  • Rescue Operations for people trapped in wrecked cars, collapsed buildings, machinery, etc.

  • Hazardous Materials Incidents where a materials release represents a threat to life, property, or the environment. This includes natural gas leaks.

  • Public Assistance for situations involving children locked in cars or homes, disabled persons needing help, etc.

  • Fire Inspection of businesses, apartments, etc. by fire companies to ensure that they are fire safe.

  • Community Services and Business

The LPFD has a community disaster plan that was updated about a year and a half ago and is in the process of being updated again this year. It includes preparedness guidelines for an emergency operations center and how the community will bring together the different department heads and public safety officials to manage overall response and resources effectively. Copies of the community disaster plan are available at public libraries throughout Livermore and Pleasanton and will soon be available online. In addition to seeing how local services will respond to emergencies, the plan also includes a complete local hazard assessment that allows readers to see the types of emergencies that are most likely to occur in the location of their home or business. It can also be used to glean ideas about how to respond to a disaster in areas like evacuation and establishing a chain of command.

The LPFD is not the only local organization working to make the Tri-Valley better prepared for emergency situations. The City of Pleasanton, through the work of the Economic Vitality Committee, is developing a campaign to encourage businesses to partner with the City to ensure that support is available during a major emergency or disaster. Later this year, local companies and organizations will be introduced to a program that connects those that are in need with the necessary resources should disaster strike.

For more information on disaster preparedness presentations, contact Tessa Burns at (925) 454-2317 or tburns@lpfire.org. For information about CPR, First Aid and CERT emergency training by the LPFD, call (925) 454-2375. Other local classes include CPR, emergency response, and first aid training offered by the Bay Area Chapter of the American Red Cross at (800) 520-5433.

Photo: LPFD's CERT program includes training on how to properly use a fire extinguisher.

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