San Ramon Valley reparing for the 'big one' | January 11, 2008 | Danville Express | |

Danville Express

Newsfront - January 11, 2008

San Ramon Valley reparing for the 'big one'

Federal grant funds emergency training this month designed for earthquakes

by Jordan M. Doronila

A federal grant will help Danville and its neighboring cities deal with earthquakes, floods, terrorism and other disasters, said town officials.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security recently gave $45,000 to train Danville and San Ramon staff to prepare themselves when an earthquake rocks California. The grant will fund an Introduction to Emergency Management course, designed specifically for earthquakes.

"This is the third year we have done this," said Greg Gilbert, town emergency services manager. "The program is so popular."

The 40-hour course teaches how to respond to earthquakes, collect and analyze data, and follow guidance from the federal and state government agencies during emergencies.

Training will take place at the San Ramon Valley Fire Protection District in San Ramon from Jan. 28-31, with people also attending from the Fire District, the San Ramon Valley Unified School District, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and the Sheriff's Office for Emergency Services. Central Contra Costa Sanitary District and East Bay Municipal Utility District will also participate.

"The opportunity to train with staff, side by side, is invaluable," Gilbert said. "They build camaraderie, identify tasks and resources and issues on a local level, making them better prepared at an efficient level."

He said staff tests its skills in a fake disaster on the last day of the course.

"It's a full blown drill involving a large earthquake in a simulated city," he said. "It's an assessment."

"You do your best," he added. "The goal is to give you tools and awareness and guidance on how to manage an earthquake. If you can deal with an earthquake, you can manage just about anything."

Instructors from the California Specialized Training Institute will teach the course. Police Chief Chris Wenzel initiated bringing the trainers to Danville a few years ago. He said town staff used to go San Luis Obispo for training, but it is more cost effective if the trainers came to the Bay Area.

The program started three years ago in Danville and San Ramon, and it eventually expanded to Dublin and Livermore. The course at first cost Danville $32,000.

The $45,000 grant covers tuition for 79 students, and it was awarded by the Local Super Urban Area Security Initiative of Homeland Security.

"It took me a number of months dealing with the bureaucracy to figure out how all this stuff works," Gilbert said. "It's like going to the DMV."

"My job is to make sure that we are in compliance and to make sure we are prepared as we can be," he added.

He noted that Danville also was given new and used military equipment to deal with disasters as well as crimes. The equipment includes tape, ladders, lighters and blankets, Wenzel said.

"The military gives all sorts of stuff," he said. "We put it away for a big event."


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