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Disaster task force ends, readiness pushes on

Original post made on Mar 18, 2008

When an earthquake, flood or other disaster strikes Palo Alto, a core group of community members -- including business, Stanford University and neighborhood leaders -- wants area residents and businesses to be ready.

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Comments (7)

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Posted by Another Bad Idea
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 18, 2008 at 7:54 am

> Members agreed there might be a mix of city involvement and
> direct citizen action, such as in the organizing of preparedness
> drills and hosting of awareness gatherings and programs, while
> the neighborhood and block-by-block organizing proceeds.

For all of the ink that this group has gotten, the papers never seem print any clear ideas about what disasters this group thinks could befall Palo Alto. The Creek has overflowed four or five times in the last century, and done some property damage in the flood plain area. There have been one or two large earth quakes that shook things up. Even though more powerful earthquakes could occur, there have been few studies produced by this group (or government for that matter) estimating the extent of the damage we could expect in Palo Alto. Raging fire storms? Meteor showers? What exactly are these people expecting?

There are possibly man-made disasters that need to be considered: atomic blast, bio-attack, military attack, "dirty bomb". It is extremely difficult to believe that this group is capable of dealing with these issues--while all of the elements of government tasked with these efforts will be unable to do anything.

Certainly keeping 3-5 days worth of personal supplies is never a bad idea--but if things get really bad, why wouldn't people look to get out and find somewhere else to be?

Palo Alto has an emergency plan. Did this group review it and publish a critique to the residents, property owners and businesses? Every "plan" has its weaknesses. Did this group understand that and actually make an effort to understand what the city government is already prepared to do in an emergency? The city council is supposed to be the advocates for the residents--but as we know, they are simply shills for the government, its employees and their labor unions. So, such a group could have done something useful. Did it?

This is a bad idea as it seems to be unfolding via the newspapers.

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Posted by Peggy Henderson
a resident of Palo Alto Hills
on Mar 18, 2008 at 5:50 pm

The priority should be to fix San Francisquito Creek. The JPA is the only agency that has tried. They have failed miserably.

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Posted by everyman for himself
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Mar 19, 2008 at 9:54 am

I think the most important piece of information is the quote from Auerbach. "He said people need to be aware that in case of a major disaster there very likely will be 'no one there' to call for help, just as in the wilderness when someone becomes ill or is injured." We're currently in the worst housing market and high inflation and the city decides to raise rates instead of helping citizens to cope with the higher costs. This is just a prelude of the disaster to come. It will be everyman for himself.

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Posted by Luis Hinojosa American Red Cross
a resident of Community Center
on Mar 19, 2008 at 12:42 pm

I work at the Palo Alto American Red Cross, and I teach Disaster Preparedness, for neighborhood groups, church groups, businesses and schools, and for all ages. If you or someone you know is interested in a FREE presentation that takes any where from a 1/2 hr. to 1 hr. In Palo Alto, Mountain View, Los Altos, Los Altos Hills and East Palo Alto; please contact me, and we can schedule one for you. contact me at
-Luis Hinojosa
Preparedness Specialist
Palo Alto Area American Red Cross

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Posted by Dave
a resident of Downtown North
on Mar 19, 2008 at 10:48 pm

In answer to Another Bad Idea you are correct in saying there has been little or no definition of what PANDA or the new City Emergency Preparedness Task Force is training for. In practice I think there are only a couple of emergencies that are serious enough to affect the entire city or region. The first is an earthquake - The Big One!!- , the second is some sort of health pandemic. In such cases the entire population of Palo Alto would have to cope and some training is better than none.

If a magnitude 7.5 or greater earthquake occurs, most roads may be impassable and power may be out. Since many of our firefighters and police officers do not live in or near Palo Alto, perhaps only 25 or 30% of them would be immediately available. That means about 50 or so trained personnel would respond to the needs of >60,000 residents (>100,000 during the working day). This in a city of more than 200 miles of road.

It is imperative that every resident be prepared to cope on his or her own for several days (or perhaps weeks?). Yes, it would be prudent to leave if you had gasoline in your car and roads were passable. But many people do not keep their gas tanks 1/2 full as a minimum. And roads may be blocked by debris or downed power lines.

Every resident should contact either PANDA or the Emergency Prep. group and learn how to help in a time of need. The City Government can handle routine, localized problems such as fires, but not major disasters.

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Posted by Annette
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 21, 2008 at 9:38 pm

To contact the emergency prep group per Dave's suggestion above, the email is For more on the concept, check out the PAN (Palo Alto Neighborhoods) site at Learn how you can get involved.

Like this comment
Posted by Paul
a resident of The Greenhouse
on Mar 22, 2008 at 2:50 am

The next PANDA training classes start Wednesday, April 9th. There are still openings in both the day and evening sessions.

If you live or work in Palo Alto, call (650) 617-3197 to enroll or email

Can't attend in April? See the PANDA 2008 training calendar at:

Web Link

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