If an earthquake hits West County, the Red Cross and Sebastopol’s Community Emergency Response Team are ready. On a Saturday in July, 22 members of the two groups began an earthquake drill and shelter training at Analy High School in Sebastopol with this chilling announcement:
“Today, at 7:20 a.m., the Rogers Creek fault, which bisects Sonoma County, fractured, causing a 7.2 earthquake. Preliminary reports tell us the Santa Rosa area suffered moderate to severe damage. Virtually all roads to Sebastopol are closed; there is a little traffic making it in from Petaluma. The city is isolated; we are an island, separated from the rest of the state. We, the community, have to take care of ourselves.”
Approximately half of us at Analy, a Red Cross shelter site, were Red Cross volunteers and wore red vests. The other half was with the Sebastopol Community Emergency Response Team and wore green vests. A number of trainees belonged to both organizations. Together, we prepared to support our community in the event of such a destructive occurrence.
Jeanne Sternbergh, Regional Disaster Action Team Coordinator and an experienced Red Cross Shelter Manager, led the earthquake drill with Randi Francis, Red Cross Regional Disaster Services Chair. Volunteers with little or no sheltering experience learned to welcome and register people who needed a temporary home. The dormitory team set up a safe place with cots and blankets where displaced people can sleep. Health-care professionals demonstrated their empathy and skill. Team members responsible for food service made it almost impossible for a client or a server to transfer unwanted germs.
To make training as realistic as possible, we role-played various special-needs scenarios, including a young mother nursing a child, a middle-aged woman suffering from dementia, and an incontinent elder.
By the time the drill ended, our team was prepared to establish a temporary home for those forced from their residences. We left with a feeling of accomplishment, equipped with the ability to house, feed and provide medical care for earthquake survivors.
The Red Cross is not a government organization. We are volunteers, funded by your donations. We need your time and donations to fulfill the spectrum of services we provide. To learn more, go to arcsm.org or call (707) 577-7600.
Tim Espinoza is a member of the Board of Directors of the American Red Cross, Sonoma, Mendocino & Lake Counties, and an active disaster volunteer. He is a retired AT&T executive.