City organizes emergency preparedness fair

Kevin Cheung/Staff

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More than 1,000 members of the Berkeley community — including seniors and families with children and pets — visited the Martin Luther King Jr. Civic Center Park on Saturday to learn more about how they could be best prepared in the event of a citywide emergency.

Organized by the city’s Fire Department and Parks, Recreation and Waterfront Department, the 2016 Berkeley Emergency Preparedness Fair saw 34 different city departments, local businesses and community organizations host family-friendly workshops and interactive demonstrations. The purpose of these demonstrations was to emphasize the need for Berkeley residents to be ready for a variety of incidents ranging from violent crimes and fires to earthquakes and floods.

“Our goal today is to get the message out that there’s little things you can do to always keep your family and your loved ones safe,” said David Brannigan, assistant chief of special operations for the Berkeley Fire Department. “We want you to be yourself, we want you to get to know your neighbors, and we want you to be prepared.”

Berkeley is one of many East Bay cities that lie on top of the Hayward Fault, a geologic fault zone capable of generating earthquakes with a magnitude up to 7.0 on the Richter scale, according to the UC Berkeley Seismological Laboratory website. While there have been several earthquakes in recent years — including an eight-day period in 2011 with more than 20 earthquakes — campus seismology lab research fellow William Hawley said the last major earthquake that occurred along the fault took place in 1868.

According to Hawley, it is quite possible that a major earthquake may occur along the Hayward Fault in the coming decades. He added that this possibility is “something the city of Berkeley needs to be worried about.”

Aside from planning for the threats of a potential earthquake, Brannigan stressed that the city is also focused on preparing responses to other potential emergencies, including urban interface wildfires, which “move very quickly and can be very dangerous,” flooding related to El Nino, and “the long-term impacts of climate change” that may be impacted by a rise in sea levels in West Berkeley.

In addition to the multiple community organizations that sought to educate residents about ideal earthquake preparedness, stalls at Saturday’s event also reflected the wide range of initiatives geared toward ensuring other types of emergency readiness in Berkeley. Representatives from the Berkeley Police Department and Berkeley Fire Department spoke about the need for community involvement achieved through the adoption of certain precautions in order to better ensure each group’s success and the city’s safety.

During the event, several organizations addressed the emergency preparedness needs of children in the community, and volunteers with the Berkeley Public Library organized a story session. One presenter on Disaster First Aid sought out a young audience with the promise of letting them “work with fake blood.”

For Rongxin Yin, a city resident, campus alumna and current Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory employee, Saturday’s fair was both an enjoyable and an informative experience.

“It’s amazing to see the city officials and volunteers put so much effort into making this fair practical and fun,” Yin said.

Yin did leave the fair with one complaint, however: “Finding parking was too hard.”

Contact Ishaan Srivastava at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter at @ishaansriv.