Menlo Park drill tests emergency response time

March 11, 2010 12:00:00 AM PST
San Mateo County is running an emergency preparedness drill today in Menlo Park. Professional and volunteer emergency response teams are testing their speed in a potential crisis, to see how fast they can go door-to-door to hand out medicine, food or water.

Instead of medicine, responders are handing out earthquake pamphlets that are being used to represent what would be vaccines handed out in a chemical or biochemical incident.

Twenty-six volunteers have three hours to go to 2,500 homes in the Menlo Park area to hand out materials. The drill runs from 9:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. Assuming each house has approximately four occupants, that amounts to roughly 10,000 people notified in the course of the drill.

They also have to coordinate with local police and fire agencies, as well as the San Mateo County Health Department.

Even though the drill scenario involves a chemical or biochemical incident, there is a reason they are choosing to hand out earthquake pamphlets.

"The earthquake information obviously is definitely something that is prevalent in the news today, and that is definitely our greatest threat here in the Peninsula and the greater Bay Area," said Jon Johnston with the Menlo Park Fire Department. "So we want to make sure that our community is prepared and aware."

Organizers are clearly mindful of the recent devastating Chilean quake.

The drill was coordinated out of the county's emergency response vehicle -- a mobile response truck. It was used for the first time last month after the East Palo Alto small plane crash.