Citizen Corps to host Safety Faire May 1
Stanford Shopping Center event to offer hands-on fire-fighting demonstrations, ham-radio exhibits
If you've never met Sparky the firedog or have wondered what the City of Palo Alto's mobile disaster nerve center looks like, May 1 will be your chance.
The Palo Alto Stanford Citizen Corps Safety Faire will take place at Stanford Shopping Center from noon to 4 p.m., and organizers hope it will be a primer of all things disaster-preparedness related, with new fire trucks, police units, demonstration vehicles, U.S. Geological Survey earthquake exhibits, a Red Cross kitchen that dishes out emergency meals and the Woodside Fire Department's smoke trailer, in which participants learn how to put out a home fire.
In light of the recent disasters in Japan, the fair comes at an opportune time, said Annette Glanckopf, Palo Alto Neighborhoods (PAN) representative to the Citizen Corps. Fair visitors will be able to learn skills crucial for surviving in an earthquake, flood, wildfire, extended power outage, chemical spill, evacuation and financial and communications shutdowns.
PAN, an organization of 35 neighborhoods and two Stanford communities, has been advocating for a Palo Alto-based safety fair since last year. Leaders received a boost in June 2010, when the City of Palo Alto agreed to help sponsor the fair. The Palo Alto Weekly and Palo Alto Online are also sponsors.
The Citizen Corps is developing a regional disaster-preparedness plan in coordination with Palo Alto and other local emergency entities. The event is seen as an important step in helping police and fire personnel, since emergency coordinators have said their ranks will be stretched thin in a disaster. Residents could be on their own for several days, they have warned.
The fair will include training for adults, including basic topics such as how to use a fire extinguisher, as well as a Masters of Disasters training area for children.
Speakers will include Dr. Enoch Choi of Palo Alto Medical Foundation, who will discuss pandemic influenza; Dr. Eric Weiss, Stanford Hospital, on the topic of emergency medicine; Bill Daley of Hohbach-Lewin, who will discuss retrofitting buildings; and Palo Alto Mayor Sid Espinosa and City Manager James Keene.
"We've had so many wakeup calls," Glanckopf said. "It's better to be prepared months too early than just one minute too late."
Al Dorsky, co-chair and a founder of the PAN block-preparedness coordinator program, has been a longtime ham-radio operator. One exhibit will be the Amateur Radio Disaster Services and Radio Amateur Civil Emergency Services (ARES/RACES) ham radio booth, he said.
"In a disaster or power outage such as during the plane crash or when the fiber-optic cable was cut, ham radio people were the only people who kept everything together. It was the only reliable means of communication.
"When the hospital in Gilroy had no communications, these are the people who got things coming through," he said.
Dorsky was part of a ham-radio team following the Feb. 17, 2010, Cessna 310R plane crash into an East Palo Alto neighborhood. The accident took out all of Palo Alto's electrical power.
"In less than five minutes after the plane crashed, I learned about what was going on," he said. The amateur-radio volunteers were able to get neighborhoods to assess the vulnerability and medical needs of people in their homes with only a ham-radio link and a phone, he said.
Other exhibits will include the American Institute of Architects, KZSU, Stanford and Lucile Packard hospitals, Palo Alto Medical Foundation, Palo Alto Airport/LifeFlight, Palo Alto Rangers, Palo Alto Neighborhoods, Palo Alto CERT, the Bay Area chapter of the Red Cross and others. The first 300 families will receive a free gift.
"Events like the Safety Faire serve multiple purposes," said Doug Kalish, Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) district coordinator. "First, they remind people that disasters do happen and personal preparation is necessary. Second, they highlight the hard work of the many volunteers who are already participating and help us to recruit new people. Finally, they allow us to meet volunteers outside of CERT so we can get to know them and their capabilities before a disaster strikes."
Staff Writer Sue Dremann can be emailed at email@example.com.