Officials urge residents to prepare for quakes

April 18, 2008 6:38:14 PM PDT
Fire officials are worried that Bay Area residents are in denial about what could happen, and are putting off preparing for one.

Transportation and communication will be the first casualties of a major earthquake. It could be days before rescuers reach people who are trapped or stranded.

"Water, towel, battery, extra battery," said Madelyn Lipford.

Madelyn Lipford has a couple bags of survival gear ready to go if she needs to evacuate, or hole-up in her Saratoga home.

Her pantry is stocked with canned food and water. She's got a wrench attached to her gas line.

"Put it on here and crank to here to shut the gas off," said Lipford.

And perhaps most importantly, in addition to her cordless house phone, she has an older, low-tech phone. It's the one that's likely to work first after an earthquake.

Cell phones are almost guaranteed not to work because cell towers are vulnerable to quake damage.

"Even if those sites aren't damaged, just the fact that everyone who has a cell phone is going to try to use their cell phones simultaneously, that's going to overwhelm the system anyway," said Jim Yoke from the Santa Clara Fire Department.

The cordless phone won't work if the power is out -- but all the old telephone needs is functioning phone lines.

Fire officials say the Red Cross is a good source for supplies and information, and so are most fire department Web sites.

"There's no shortage of information out there about what you should be doing to plan appropriately in your home for a disaster and what supplies you should have," said Yoke.

The San Jose Fire Department has new equipment for rescues from collapsed structures. A truck loaded with wood to build supports as they dig through rubble, a portable wood shop, powerful jackhammers and breathing apparatus that does not require an oxygen tank.

"We train in like, tiny trenches where we're literally scooting along in these little tunnels," said firefighter Jon Watkins.

The funding for their new collapse-rescue equipment has come from Homeland Security grants.


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