City of Palo Alto Honored in Red Cross Heroes Celebration

Palo Alto presented with Innovative Preparedness Heroes Award on Thursday for its measures to ensure civilian safety.

Sometimes people do good deeds, and the deed goes unnoticed.

But at the Fifth Annual Heroes Celebration Thursday afternoon at the Hyatt Regency in Santa Clara, the Silicon Valley Chapter of the Red Cross recognized a handful of good Samaritans, the innovative efforts of a company and the emergency preparedness of a city.

“Today is about gratitude, the gratitude to be associated with our volunteers, staff, donors,” said Silicon Valley Chapter CEO Barb Larkin. “Nobody expects a disaster. When our volunteers show up, we receive a lot of gratitude back. We are you. The Red Cross is everybody in this community.”

The city of Palo Alto received the Innovative Preparedness Heroes Award, because of the way the city has gone to extreme measures to ensure the safety of its residents and employees in the event a disaster hits. Palo Alto has made disaster preparedness a strategic priority.

"One of the great advantages that our city has is that we have a combination of forces," said James Keene, Palo Alto city manager, in a video presented to attendees. He pointed to an "engaged citizenry," organized neighborhood leaders and a future-minded City Council as factors that make Palo Alto a safe community to live.

Two committees selected the honorees from nearly 50 people and organizations nominated throughout Santa Clara County, said Cynthia Shaw, chapter spokeswoman.

Milpitas-based Cisco Systems Tactical Operations received the Innovative Preparedness Heroes Award for a group of employees trained to respond to natural disasters and other emergencies.

“What Cisco does is, it really tries to bring technology to a level where first responders can use it,” said Catherine Nelson, a member of this Cisco team, on the video presented at the awards luncheon. “As a result, you save more lives.”

Seven people received the Good Samaritan Heroes Awards.

Two Mountain View men, Juan Gomez and Josh Cottrell, rushed to perform CPR on a , a Los Altos resident who experienced a severe heart attack in April 2010.

The two staffers acted immediately according to their training.

“I felt that what we did, we just did our job,” Gomez said on the video. “We did what we were trained to do.”

San Jose residents James Myers, Sergio Jimenez and Justo Magana-Garcia rescued a driver from a car engulfed in flames.

Robert Bentson, a Gilroy resident and son of a firefighter, heard an explosion and then silence. After no emergency vehicles arrived, he drove to the scene and helped another man rescue a neighbor from a burning building last New Year’s Eve.

“I didn’t really think about it other than to help him and to help whoever was in the unit,” Bentson said on the video. “I just hope someone would do the same for me and my family.”

Bentson said he got the resident out with “about a minute to spare” and didn’t think about it.

Around 500 community members, supporting companies, sponsors and volunteers joined the luncheon Thursday to raise money for Red Cross efforts.

"The stories were amazing. You don't plan for an emergency, and oftentimes, people would ignore people in distress,” said  Margaret Abe-Koga. “These people stepped up to save someone's life. They are unsung heroes. Makes me proud to have so many in our city."

Mike Tyler, a bakery manager at the Mountain View , helped perform CPR on a man who suffered a heart attack in the store last November.

"It's a little bit overwhelming and a little bit uncomfortable," Tyler said after the event about all of the recognition he’s received. The Mountain View City Council honored him last year. "It seems that I'm getting a lot of attention for doing something you should just do."

To donate to the Red Cross, visit its website at siliconvalley-redcross.org.


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