The Kenwood Press
: 04/01/2011

Is Oakmont prepared for a disaster?

Yvonne Frauenfelder

As I write these lines the world has watched in horror the unfolding tragedies in Japan. Helpless, we follow the ever-growing consequences of the massive earthquake, followed by a tsunami of unimaginable scale, and a nuclear accident that has poisoned the air, the rivers and the grounds around the Fukushima Daiichi plant with long-term effects.

Could it happen here in California? It did in 1964 when a towering wall of water buried Crescent City. And recently, waves traveling from Japan, thousands of miles across the Pacific, damaged the ports of Santa Cruz and Crescent City.

Tidal waves are of little concern to Oakmont, but we face other risks. Only 30 miles separate us from the San Andreas fault, and the Healdsburg/Rodgers Creek fissure is close by and causes the periodic and noticeable temblors in our village. The 1906 earthquake that struck San Francisco did not spare Santa Rosa, which sustained considerable damage. City officials have already informed Oakmont not to expect any significant assistance for three days after a catastrophic seismic event, which could potentially block Highway 12.

Fortunately, a group of wise residents looked ahead and established not only our fire station, but founded the Oakmont Emergency Preparedness Committee in 1982. Under the able leadership of Al Thomas, OEPC is prepared to staff three control stations in the event of a major emergency. These infirmaries are located at the Berger Center and the West and the East Recreation Centers, where they will function as first-aid locations.

A physician is assigned to each of these facilities, and assisting them are trained nurses, a social worker, psychologist, counselors and spiritual caregivers. The Oakmont Rovers are offering their recreational vehicles, equipped with kitchen and sanitary amenities. Additionally, a coordinator and communicator have access to additional equipment at the Gardens and the Star of the Valley parish hall.

A full assortment of first-aid supplies is available, as are cots for traumatized, sick and injured residents. (The field beds were scrounged from abandoned military bases). Blankets, limited water rations, crutches and, not to be forgotten, porta-potties, are stored and ready to be used. In the absence of electricity, generators will spring into action. Short of surgery, the medical staff is capable of providing most services.

How are these humanitarian efforts funded? The Oakmont Village Association provides financial support, but money is not plentiful and donations are gratefully accepted, as well as equipment. And, of course, more volunteers are always needed.

Working hand in glove with OEPC is COPE (Citizens Organized to be Prepared for Emergency). Under the aegis and tireless guidance of Sue Hattendorf, most of Oakmont’s households have been formed into individual groups of neighbors. Each block has a captain and assistants who prepare their respective constituency with regular drills. Should a disaster strike, the captain will immediately visit all the homes under her or his care to assess what is needed and to render help if necessary.

And what must we do individually? COPE instructs to store food, water and vital medication enough for several days. Further items should include candles, eyeglasses, a fire extinguisher and a full tank of gas, in the event Highway 12 is still passable. And you should know what measures to take at home when a crisis happens.

For instance, should an earthquake strike, do not run outside (in case of flying debris), but find shelter under a heavy table or desk or underneath a door frame. In case of a major fire, close all windows and doors in order not to inhale harmful particulates from the smoke. COPE volunteers instruct how to turn off the gas and water, find the electrical panel and demonstrate how to open the garage door manually.

Finally, how often do we hear that we are overdue for the BIG one? How many of us have been given written instructions what to do and what not to do in preparation for a major earthquake? We read them and then ignore the unpleasant thoughts of a disaster, without having the wrench to turn off the gas and without storing emergency food and water.

The catastrophes that struck Japan are a stark reminder that we, too, will be sooner or later subjected to a cataclysmal event. Therefore our sincere thanks are due to Al Thomas of OEPC, Sue Hattendorf of COPE, Dr. Les Holve, the medical director, and their many volunteers who are in charge of our safety in Oakmont.

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