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Preparing for a safety pinch

September 23, 2004

Marisa O'Neil

Costa Mesa residents Diane and Paul Hill are prepared for the worst.

They have CPR training, a grab bag of important documents ready to

take in an emergency and two-way radios to communicate with if the

phones go out. They even have a swimming pool that can provide a

source of water to douse a fire in a pinch.

And they want others to be ready for the unexpected, too.

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"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

the city.

"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,

West said.

"Even when all the phones go out, we can still use the radios," he

said.

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