The big one has struck, your house has collapsed, the power is out, and you need your community. What do you do?
City officials, volunteers and emergency personnel will converge on two city parks this weekend to ensure that you have the answer to that question.
The event, Quakeville, is part campout, part emergency preparedness class, part get-to-know-your-neighbors. There will be firefighters, police, Red Cross, HAM radio operators, and Palo Alto’s disaster response team, CERT, on-hand to help residents prepare for the worst.
Palo Alto Police and Fire Chief Dennis Burns said that for his team, the event is an important way to test emergency systems.
"It’s a good thing for us because without this we’d have a sense of how it might go, but this is much closer to the real thing than anything we’ve done for quite some time," said Burns.
The chief also noted that the social element of Quakeville is crucial for fostering a sense of community, which itself is important in the aftermath of a disaster.
"If you know your neighbors, you’re more inclined to be concerned about them and to look out for them," he said.
The free event takes place at Juana Briones Park and Rinconada Park in Palo Alto. A complete map and schedule for each location is attached as .PDFs in the sidebar of this story.
Lydia Kou, who founded and organizes Quakeville, said that residents should make an effort to at least stop by, even if they don't want to camp out.
"Seeing is believing," said Kou. "If they take the opportunity just to come out—they don’t have to camp—there is so much activity going on; we have exhibits—water sanitation, purification—just looking at all the exhibits that are out there will give them an idea of what they should be thinking about and preparing for."
Registration begins at both sites at 1 p.m. Saturday and includes afternoon exhibit presentations by Red Cross, Boy Scouts, Fire Explorers, Community Emergency Response Team (CERT, aka PANDA), Police and Fire crews, Block Preparedness Coordinators and ARES.
Presentations will cover emergency foods, water filtration/purification, hygiene and sanitation, and emergency first aid.
Kou said the threat of a big quake is very real and should not be ignored. According to USGS, there is a 63 percent chance of a 6.7 magnitude or greater earthquake striking the Bay Area by 2036.
Kou added that rather than assuming emergency personnel will be readily available to rescue you in the event of a disaster, "it's better to be self-reliant and self-sustaining rather than having to go and ask someone else for it."
That self-reliance, she said, is what Quakeville is all about. It's an idea encapsulated in one of the event's mantra's: "Yo-Yo".
"You're on your own," said Juana Briones Incident Commander and Barron Park resident Daniel Lilienstein. "That’s not to say the police and fire services are bad, it’s just to say that they’re likely to be busy."
Lilienstein offered the following portrait of what a Palo Alto street might look like in the aftermath of a large quake:
"You’re probably looking at downed trees, a roadway that may be impassible, live wires that are down and sparking and possibly causing fire, you're looking at broken water mains and sewer mains and gas pipes, some of which are leaking."
Lilienstein added that because many homes have not been earthquake-proofed, there may likely also be injuries from bookcases falling over, broken glass, and other flying objects.
"Pretty much any of those things can happen and cause hazards," he said.
In addition to presentations, there will also be numerous emergency vehicles on demonstration at Quakeville, including Palo Alto’s Mobile Emergency Operations Center (MEOC), and vehicles from SWAT, CSI, HAZMAT, Fire and the Palo Alto Animal Shelter.
Sunday morning will include breakfast followed by a 9/11 10th anniversary memorial, which will include a moment of silence.
In an exclusive interview with Palo Alto Patch at last year’s Quakeville, then-mayor Pat Burt said the city was behind in its disaster preparedness, underlining the need for residents to get informed now about how best to cope in the face of catastrophe.