LPFD's 'Together We Prepare' Program Strives for a Disaster-Resilient Community

A new term has entered the emergency-preparedness lexicon: disaster resilience. We all know about the eventual Big One. Prevention is not much of an option, but the focus on recovery in the aftermath of a major earthquake continues to sharpen. The latest fine-tuning is incorporated in the "Together We Prepare" (TWP) program which Genevieve Pastor-Cohen, Emergency Preparedness Manager for the Livermore- Pleasanton Fire Department (LPFD), is currently coordinating. Pastor-Cohen has special expertise in this area, having instituted the preparation program, developed by the American Red Cross, in a former position with the city of Alameda.

"Research reveals that communities that work together and plan ahead for a crisis are the most resilient in bouncing back to everyday life in the wake of a real disaster," Pastor-Cohen observes. There is actually a formal standard to assess disaster resilience in a community. According to the American Red Cross, communities become disaster resilient when at least 25 percent of their residents are trained in personal emergency preparedness, and an additional three to five percent have completed Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) training.

"There are three actions at the heart of TWP: assemble the emergency kit; make a plan - for yourself, your family, and at work; and get informed and involved - give blood, sign up for a neighborhood watch group or CERT team," Pastor-Cohen relates.

The LPFD initiative will ripple through the community, starting with one-hour presentations on emergency preparedness to local clubs, business and faith-based organizations, and schools. Even before the presentations, however, there must be presenters, beyond Pastor-Cohen herself. A one-day train-the-trainer session prepares volunteers to deliver the preparedness message to groups within their own sphere of influence, or they can be matched with requests that come in to the LPFD. Pastor-Cohen conducted the first train-the-trainer class in mid-March, with plans for two more, in the summer and fall, this year.

Her goal is to have 16,750 Pleasanton residents prepared according to TWP emergency guidelines by fall 2010. That means one in four people will know what to do, but it's only the bare minimum, she points out. Alameda's program ultimately trained over 30,000 people, almost half the city's population of 72,000 at the time. "I think if we start rolling this out in Pleasanton's faith-based, senior, and special-needs organizations and school districts, we can reach our 2010 goal," she comments.

Pastor-Cohen also recommends the free, LPFD-sponsored Emergency Survival Expo at the Livermore Community Center on Saturday, April 25. One of the new resources attendees can learn about is Noah's Wish, a group that rescues and shelters animals during disasters - a reminder to include the family pets in any preparedness plan.

For those who find it too easy to postpone attending to their own disaster resilience, Pastor-Cohen suggests a look at the "shake map" at www.abag.ca.gov/bayarea/eqmaps/pickcity.html . The Northern Calaveras Fault, which runs under I-680, is a black zone, subject to the most violent shaking, and "you never know about Mother Nature," she reminds us. The TWP one-hour emergency preparedness training sessions are available free for groups of 20 or more people by calling Pastor-Cohen at (925) 454-2361.

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