Friday, February 19, 2010

The Unthinkable Disaster Occurred!

Would you believe that I just did a show talking about East Palo Alto's Master Emergency Disaster Plan? On the show, I talked with several people who are involved with the creation and the execution of the plan.  I asked them to give several examples of the type of disasters the plan covered and to discuss what would happen if a disaster struck East Palo Alto today. Ryan Zollicoffer, the Menlo Park Fire Protection District's Emergency Services Coordinator, who was one of my guests on the show mentioned that a plane crash was a good example of a man-made disaster. My other guest Captain John Chalmers said that while the master plan has not been approved yet, the City of East Palo Alto had a plan in place if a disaster struck East Palo Alto.

Well, a disaster actually occurred! A plane crashed in East Palo Alto this week -- two weeks after we taped the show and three days after the show stopped airing. In my last blog, I wrote about the possibility of an earthquake striking urban centers of this country. Well, since that writing an earthquake struck on February 10, in what many would consider an unlikely place, a Chicago, Illinois suburb.

Hypothetical situations no longer trump the reality. Let no one doubt that what we only talk about can become the new reality and reality packs a more powerful, emotional and physical punch than any fiction can. Again, it's no longer "if," it's a matter of "when" and that, I have to admit, can seem just a little scary, especially since the "when" actually arrives as a real disaster. But at least we have some idea of what can happen and we know it's not fictional.

Many condolences to the families of the victims of the plane crash, to all of the East Palo Alto residents whose lives were turned upside down by the crash and to all, inside and outside of East Palo Alto, who are still reeling from what happened.

It's time we begin to calm whatever fears we might have about the unexpected and get involved in an emergency planning process on a personal level and on a citywide level. The unthinkable disaster can and does occur.

To hear an audio of the plane crash from the East Palo Alto Police Department's ShotSpotter recording, click here.  For more information, go to, the website for the East Palo Alto Today newspaper.

Monday, February 1, 2010

The Haitian Earthquake is Another Wake-up Call

     Many, whose families and friends were not affected by the earthquake and tsunami that hit the Pacific Islands in Tonga and Samoa on September 27, 2009, might already have forgotten about that disaster. How easy it is to put unpleasant events behind us if they do not affect us directly. Now, the devastating earthquake that took place in Haiti on January 12 is another serious wake-up call for everyone who lives in an earthquake area.
     Of course, this might include most of America. What might surprise many is the fact that there are earthquake faults throughout the Midwestern United States and even in the Atlantic region of this country. Geologists say that the time might be overdue for an earthquake to occur in other major urban centers in this country.
     We all know, too well, the danger posed by hurricanes, tornadoes, mudslides and other natural and man-made disasters. So, no area of this country is safe from a potential disaster. How many times have we heard that we must prepare ourselves and our families with enough food and medical supplies to survive on our own for 72 hours in case a disaster occurs. The majority of us have probably not done this.
      But it is not a question of "if" a disaster strikes, it is becoming all too clear, it's now a case of "when" the disaster strikes. We're told, "Don't panic. Simply prepare." Of course, there are those who will always say, "What will be, will be." This might be true, but we have choices and, given the choice, an ounce of prevention and planning is always better than a pound of trying to manage when you're in the middle of the creek without a lifeboat, life preserver or paddle.
      The U.S. Federal Government is now requiring all cities and municipalities to have emergency preparedness plans. Residents should be required to have them, too. The life saved might be one's own. It might also be the life of a friend or a loved one.
     For more information on my show which talks about what one city is doing to prepare for a natural or man-made disaster, log onto and read about Emergency Preparedness: Creating a Master Plan. You can now also see a slideshow I posted that features the guests who appeared on my show in October 2009. That show, called Dealing with a Natural Disaster, discussed the earthquake and tsunami that hit the Pacific Islands.
     Now I need to ask, "Are you prepared for any impending disaster that might affect you and your family when it strikes in your area?" Have you done anything at all to stock up on non-perishable food and medical supplies? If you haven't made any preparations, why not?