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'Disaster Queen' Wendy Greuel on Emergency Preparedness

A TERA event filled with information—and possibly some early mayoral campaigning.

At least since the devastating tsunami and earthquake in Japan in March, emergency preparedness has been on the minds of community organizations—and the politicians and non-governmental groups they routinely liaise with—like seldom before.

And so it was that (The Eagle Rock Association) hosted a meeting on emergency preparedness last week at the . In attendance were some 30 ER residents, representatives of the L.A. chapter of the Red Cross, and Los Angeles City Controller Wendy Greuel.

Erica Helson, a Red Cross preparedness education manager, got the ball rolling at the late-evening June 8 event by stressing the importance of personal preparedness versus relying on city and government services in the event of a natural disaster. (Click on the pdf file to your right to catch a glimpse of Helson’s presentation, which is reproduced here with the permission of the Red Cross.)

Among the vital—and rather well known—steps toward emergency preparedness is compiling an emergency kit (Patch reported on this issue ) and holding emergency drills, Helson told the audience. But those measures are as successful as your ability to internalize the so-called first response to disasters, that is, to be thoroughly well-versed in such techniques as Drop, Cover, Hold in the event of an earthquake: Drop down on the floor as soon as the earthquake hits, seek cover under furniture, and hold on to your cover.

Helson also mentioned lesser-known precautions one does not often hear about, such as storing relevant phone numbers and addresses offline. After all, a cell phone without charge is useless in an emergency. Batteries, too, are often an issue, whether they happen to be running low in smoke detectors or whether you have enough of them packed the emergency supplies.

Also vital: Designating an out-of-state contact who will coordinate family information in case of an emergency. The Red Cross also asks Eagle Rockers to visit www.prepareLA.org to learn more about individual preparedness, and to consider participating in CERT, which organizes community emergency response teams. Classes will be held in Highland Park beginning in August.

Los Angeles City Controller Wendy Greuel spoke during the second part of the meeting, touching upon the city's state of emergency preparedness for a multitude of disasters it could face. Recently, the city opened a new City Operations Center, which will coordinate rescue and help efforts in the event of an emergency, she said.

Also, the city has been keeping an eye on the reserve fund, which holds about $30 million and is earmarked for emergencies, both fiscal and otherwise, Greuel said. The city is also updating the safety of older bridges in the wake of the I-35 disaster in Minnesota in 2007. But even though the city is preparing, residents should not count on help from the government after a big disaster, Greuel cautioned. Instead, they should take their own precautions.

Referring to her previous title of "Pothole Queen" during her tenure on the Los Angeles City Council, Greuel launched into a longer stretch of personal recollections of earthquakes in Los Angeles, mentioning childhood memories of the 1971 earthquake, and explaining that she had been awarded the title of "Disaster Queen" in the aftermath of the 1994 quake, when she coordinated the Department of Housing and Urban Development's response in the Los Angeles area.

Roughly half of Greuel speech was devoted, however, to her experience, memories and public policy expertise about quakes in Los Angeles. Not surprisingly, her presentation led more than one audience member to wonder if perhaps her visit to the TERA meeting was as much an official update on the city's state of preparedness as a meet'n'greet with prospective voters ahead of her declared run for the city’s mayor in 2013.

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