The bright red line shows the Hayward Fault running through Berkeley

Tomorrow morning, a (simulated) 6.9 earthquake on the Hayward Fault hits Berkeley. Do you know what to do in a major disaster?

Community Emergency Response Teams (CERT) from across the city will be participating in a live exercise both to test their skills and to spread the word about effective disaster preparedness.

“This is the first time Berkeley has done this kind of citywide exercise,” said Deputy Fire Chief Gil Dong. “It’s designed to get people prepared and aware about supporting themselves during a disaster.”

Dong said that 150 people representing 66 groups and many individuals had signed up for the exercise. “Getting this type of response the first time and on a Saturday in May is fantastic,” he said. Last year, the city did a more limited emergency exercise focused on radio communications.

According to Dong, during the exercise CERT members will be practicing communicating in four different directions: with their own families, with their own neighborhoods, with the City Emergency Operation Center and with other neighborhoods.

“In a disaster, communication is the first and biggest challenge,” said Berkeley Fire Chief Debra Pryor. “Although we can’t completely simulate a disaster, the coordinated exercise gives our neighborhood groups and our staff the chance to work together and practice disaster response in Berkeley neighborhoods.”

The city website page for the exercise contains a number of resources to help both individuals and neighborhood groups prepare for a disaster, including ideal contents for a personal backpack survival kit, radio communication basics, and a guide to creating a neighborhood map which details utility shutoff valves and switches.  The city also maintains a comprehensive emergency preparedness gateway on the web.

Dong said the most important thing for individuals to learn is the five steps for earthquake preparedness: make a plan for how to evacuate and where to meet, arrange for a long-distance telephone contact, prepare a five-day emergency supplies kit, prepare your home to survive an earthquake, and get to know your neighbors and organize your neighborhood.

Seismologists estimate a major quake on the Hayward Fault is “increasingly likely”. The last major earthquake on the fault was in 1868, and the last five major events on the fault occurred 140 years apart on average.

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Lance Knobel (Berkeleyside co-founder) has been a journalist for nearly 40 years. Much of his career was in business journalism. He was editor-in-chief of both Management Today, the leading business magazine...