CERT Sponsors Meeting with Police
By SALLY HOGARTY
On May 14, CERT, Community Emergency Response Team, held a special meeting at the Orinda Community Center with the police chiefs from Orinda, Moraga and Lafayette as featured speakers. Ironically, the Montclair area of Oakland experienced a 3.5 earthquake during the meeting which centered on how to respond in an emergency.
Fortunately, the earthquake along Highway 13 did not cause injuries or significant damage. The meeting, however, did focus on local events that resulted in both.
“I learned a lot working with law enforcement in Napa and Sonoma counties during the fire in October,” said Lafayette Police Chief Ben Alldritt. “There was fire everywhere and often downed power lines. We had to travel through valleys of smoke that turned to furnaces, often on roads where there wasn’t enough room to turn around.”
The newly appointed police chief for Lafayette (April 1, 2018) noted that lack of communication was a major problem. “Radios were in short supply and while our cell phones sometimes worked on the west side of the freeway, they didn’t work on the east. We also had fuel issues with most gas stations closed and with so many stores closed. It was difficult to get food supplies as well,” he explained.
Orinda’s Police Chief Mark Nagel added that communication with the community is a priority for local law enforcement. “Since we want to be sure to get messages about emergencies to everyone, it’s very important that people register for Nixel, a great community alert app for your phone. Signing up is easy and you can get reports on any emergencies happening not just in your city but in surrounding areas,” Nagel said. “We also rely on the Lamorinda Ham Radio Group, not just for emergencies but also during the 4th of July parade.”
“One benefit here in Lamorinda is that our police and fire departments are all on the same channel,” Alldritt explained.
“It allows us to respond quickly, and we work together on a regular basis.” Nagel added, “For instance, we recently had an elderly gentleman with dementia walk away from his Orinda home. Time is of the essence in a case like this and within minutes we had four Orinda PD and seven from Lafayette out looking for him. He was found and returned safely to his home.”
Nagel also noted that the Orinda Police Department is working closely with PG&E to cut trees, especially along Miner Rd., that could bring down power lines. Alldritt said he, along with Moraga Police Chief Jon King, who wasn’t able to attend the meeting at the last minute, were working closely with PG&E on the St. Mary’s Rd. pipeline project to mitigate traffic nightmares and to ensure that local residents have an evacuation route in case of an emergency.
In addition to communication among police, fire and local residents, Alldritt encouraged residents to check on neighbors, especially the elderly or those with impairment issues: “The average age for fatalities in the Sonoma fire was 70.”
Both police chiefs said their departments are happy to come out to residents’ homes or local businesses and do a risk assessment. Nagel also noted that vacation house checks are very popular in Orinda.
Nagel and Alldritt hope to forge an even stronger relationship with CERT: “We could use their help in a variety of ways: checking homes for people left behind during an emergency; helping find missing residents and escorting them home, acting as a liaison with police and fire personnel and much more,” Nagel said.
CERT encourages residents to attend a one-day class in Walnut Creek to obtain a HAM radio license. The class takes place June 2 from 8:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. at Rossmoor’s Hillside Clubhouse, 3400 Golden Rain Rd., in Walnut Creek. The $35 fee includes FCC exam and license fees, free additional re-testing plus refreshments throughout the day. To preregister, go to https://sites.google.com/site/wccerthams.
For more information on Lamorinda CERT, go to http://www.lamorindacert.org.