As cameras pan across an American Red Cross shelter, rows and rows of cots contain weary, shell-shocked residents. This is the aftermath of yet another natural disaster, in which hundreds of people with uncertain futures cling to a few snatched-up belongings amid a sea of strangers.
On Sept. 22, that same scene will happen in Palo Alto at Cubberley Community Center, although -- with any luck -- it won't come on the heels of a real disaster. Instead, organizers of the annual Quakeville event said it will be a rehearsal for what certainly will become real when a major earthquake strikes.
In its third year, Quakeville will offer residents a chance to play out what life could be like after being evacuated to an American Red Cross of Silicon Valley shelter, organizers said.
In previous years Quakeville brought together city emergency workers, emergency volunteers and residents from Barron Park and surrounding neighborhoods at city parks. Amid the campout atmosphere, residents ate hot dogs with neighbors and kids got to sleep overnight in tents in the park.
The two past events also included a search-and-rescue drill -- and plenty of fake blood.
This year's event will have more of the same, but instead of tents, participants can stay overnight on cots. The event is open to anyone in the city willing to show up to be fed, splinted, bandaged or to otherwise just be present. It will also focus on animal care and ways to help seniors, organizers said.
Food will be provided, including dinner and breakfast.
Event co-chairs Lydia Kou and Annette Glanckopf said Quakeville 2012 could be an eye-opening experience, and they encourage residents to fill up the shelter to get a real sense of what it would be like when homes collapse.
Residents are encouraged to try out the cots, taste-test emergency rations -- and discover what the Red Cross would and wouldn't provide so they can better decide what to take along when disaster strikes. In a real emergency, there won't be time to grab more than a few items, Kou and Glanckopf said.
"Let's think about the Colorado fire, where there was a full-blown evacuation and people only had minutes to escape," said Kou, neighborhoods team leader for the city's Emergency Services Volunteer program.
Besides food, sponsor tables and information on disaster preparedness and supplies, Quakeville will need plenty of volunteers to role-play being injured, sick or dead.
Volunteer emergency workers will practice on the pretend victims through emergency drills, search-and-rescue scenarios and medical triage. (No one will get cut, but there could be quite a few bandages, organizers said.)
As in the past, Quakeville will have a surprise search-and-rescue incident for block-preparedness coordinators, radio and communications volunteers and Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) members, said Glanckopf, a member of the city's disaster-preparedness coalition Citizen Corps Council.
"There is a certain amount of chaos that is built into these kinds of situations," she said of the importance of Quakeville, which helps those in training adapt to the unexpected.
This year's event includes establishing an animal shelter -- of sorts. Participants are asked to bring a stuffed animal to be treated as if it were real for the drills, so people's real pets will not get stressed, Glanckopf said. City animal services and Red Cross volunteers will practice intake and care for stray animals and pets.
Ali Williams, Quakeville's public information officer, said seniors are another event focus. In a disaster, many seniors would not have transportation to a shelter, for example, she said.
Kou said the city must look at ways to help seniors, children and residents with functional needs.
"We are an aging population. How are they going to be served in a disaster? Who is going to take them? We have all these different generations to consider: seniors, people with medical conditions, people with babies and people with pets," she said.
Kou said as she checks off her lengthy list of preparations for Quakeville, she has at least one person in mind to help with those fake bruises, lacerations and burns.
"I will ask my hairdresser to do makeup," she said.
The event is sponsored by the City of Palo Alto, the city's Office of Emergency Services, the American Red Cross, City of Palo Alto Animal Services, Avenidas, and the Palo Alto Weekly and Palo Alto Online.