Hundreds of Berkeley residents took part in a citywide Community Emergency Response Teams training exercise Saturday morning to prepare for possible environmental disasters.
As anxiety grows over the inevitable arrival of “the Big One” — the major earthquake predicted to hit California within the next 20 years — many in Berkeley have decided to take proactive measures to ensure their families and neighborhoods are trained for a catastrophic event.
Starting at 9 a.m., participants from 66 neighborhoods registered with the city’s emergency response program met in their respective neighborhoods to test out equipment and run through emergency scenarios that could help them better prepare for not only earthquakes but fires and other disasters as well.
“It’s always important to be prepared,” said Berkeley resident Maki Fukuzawa, who participated in exercises in the Halcyon neighborhood in South Berkeley this year and last. “We never know when it will come.”
Acting as though a 6.9-magnitude earthquake had struck the city, participants walked around the neighborhood tackling challenges ranging from injured individuals trapped inside houses to how to communicate with emergency personnel via radio. Members of the Berkeley Fire Department arrived after the exercise to discuss the obstacles participants faced during the scenario and to offer advice.
Susan Snyder is a disaster coordinator with the program who led the Halcyon neighborhood exercise. She first began taking the city’s free classes in emergency training three years ago after having a child and realizing that, as a parent, she was completely unprepared for any kind of disaster.
“Just having the basic skills can make a huge difference,” Snyder said.
After the exercise, one representative from each neighborhood went to the fire department’s warehouse at 1011 Folger Avenue to discuss and give feedback on the day’s exercise. Many participants had difficulty operating the ham radios provided by the city, which they used to relay messages to certified radio operators situated at various fire departments during the drill.
“It’s not a matter of if, but when,” said Deputy Fire Chief Gil Dong before the debrief session. “Whether it’s an earthquake or a fire, we need to be prepared.”
Dong said that because there have been two major student housing fires since November, it is also important for students to be prepared for different types of disasters. The first fire destroyed a 39-unit apartment building on the corner of Haste Street and Telegraph Avenue, while the second destroyed a six-unit building on Dwight Way.
According to Dong, members of UC Berkeley’s fraternities, sororities and student co-operatives have been working with emergency personnel in the city through the emergency response program to provide students with disaster preparedness training as well.
Adelyn Baxter is the news editor.
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