"People think they're prepared on their own," said 40-year
resident Diane Hill, co-chair of the Costa Mesa Citizen Corps
Volunteer Management Team. "But we're so much safer if we combine
with our neighbors."
The couple went through training to become part of the city's
Community Emergency Response Team. In an emergency, the city could
activate the volunteer corps to help out with the back-to-basics
recovery in their neighborhoods.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency oversees the program in
cities throughout the country.
Training in Costa Mesa starts with neighborhood
disaster-preparedness courses, which the city is offering during the
next couple months. The two-session course covers neighborhood watch
programs, fire safety and ways to get ready for the unexpected.
That basic training will help people deal with a large-scale
disaster if emergency services are stretched thin and can't respond
immediately, said Gerald Verwolf, emergency services coordinator for
"We often hear that local government won't be there in the first
72 hours after a disaster," Verwolf said. "We have to be able to take
care of ourselves. There are ways [residents] can help themselves,
can help their neighbors."
Those ways include having an evacuation plan, a disaster kit and
supplies such as drinking water.
Being good neighbors helps too, Diane Hill said. That could mean
keeping an eye on someone's house when they're on vacation or
checking to see how they are doing after an earthquake.
"First and foremost, help yourself [after an emergency]," said
Brenda Emrick, fire protection specialist for the Costa Mesa Fire
Department. "But then help your neighborhood and help your city."
Residents who want to go beyond the basic course can enroll in the
Citizens' Fire Academy, scheduled for January, Emrick said. The
academy has included training for those who want to become certified
members of the Community Emergency Response Team, but the department
may offer a separate class for it in the future, Emrick said.
"These classes help the citizens of Costa Mesa be more prepared in
any type of disaster, whether it's a water heater that overflows
while on vacation, an earthquake, terrorist warnings, plane crash,
anything that comes along."
The basic disaster-preparedness courses start tonight with a
meeting for residents in the Hall of Fame neighborhood. More are
scheduled for other neighborhoods throughout the city.
All residents are invited to the weekly check-in meetings at 8:30
p.m. every Monday, said Gordon West, co-chair with Diane Hill. Just
tune in to channel four on any two-way radio -- the kind available
for $20 or less at discount stores -- and meet the other members,
"Even when all the phones go out, we can still use the radios," he