Mon 27 Oct 2008
Getting ready for disaster is both anxiety-ridden and fun, as some of us in West Marin learned in the last few days. One particularly fun event was the West Marin Disaster Council’s annual pancake breakfast in the Point Reyes Station firehouse.
Retired County Administrator Mark Riesenfeld of Point Reyes Station watches Inverness volunteer firefighter Ken Fox pour batter at the West Marin Disaster Council’s pancake breakfast Sunday.
During the fundraiser, oyster farmer Kevin Lunny (center) chats with Marin Magazine writer P.J. Bremier (in dark glasses). In the November issue, Bremer writes at length about the Point Reyes National Seashore’s desire to close down Lunny’s century-old oyster operation. Listening (left of him) is Dolly Aleshire of Inverness. Librarian Jennifer Livingston of Inverness stands in the foreground.
Marin County firefighter Tony Giacomini reads off the names of winners in the disaster council’s raffle. Assisting him are his wife Nikki, his son Brandt (who has just drawn a ticket), and Brandt’s brother Ryan (beside him).
Raising money for disaster preparedness, as was noted, is the fun part. The anxiety-ridden part was the drill we disaster council members held last week.
Here was the mock scenario. On Tuesday, a Magnitude 6.9 earthquake on the Hayward Fault (which runs from Fremont to San Pablo Bay) causes massive destruction. Some 2,000 Bay Area people die, and 5,000 more go to hospitals.
Marin County is mostly isolated from the outside world with Highway 101 blocked at Petaluma, the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge closed, and the Golden Gate Bridge reduced to one lane. It takes until Thursday to get a comprehensive assessment of the damage.
So last Thursday morning, about 50 public employees set up shop in an alternative emergency-operations center at the jail while out here on the coast, neighborhood liaisons to the West Marin Disaster Council pretended to look for damage.
I’m the Campolindo Drive liaison to the disaster council. That basically means in case of a disaster, such as a major earthquake, I’m supposed to radio my area coordinator, Kate Kain of Point Reyes Station, and let her know if there are any serious problems on this road.
Thursday was the day to test our ability to use the high tech walkie-talkies we’ve all been issued. We’d received instructions from radio expert Richard Dillman (who also does technical work at KWMR), but most of us had never before used the radios, and I was a bit nervous.
What if I couldn’t remember which of the radio’s many buttons to press when I tried to speak on the air? If I pressed one wrong button, I’d change the band on which I wanted to broadcast. Another button would set off a disruptive beeping at Kate’s house. If I went on the air at the wrong time, I’d interfere with another liaison’s reporting in.
I set the alarm for 9:30 a.m. Thursday, which is early for me, and likewise took an early shower. (I was going to be sharp for this drill.) Methodically, I ate breakfast and read the morning newspaper. (I was also going to be full of energy and in possession of the latest information.)
At 11 a.m. as scheduled, I went out on my deck to radio Kate, whose house I can nearly see from mine. Although I could hear other people radioing in reports, it took me several minutes to figure out the correct button for talking on the air. (It’s under my thumb in the photo above.) Eventually, I managed to get through and report that all was well on Campolindo Drive. Kate thanked me for taking part in the drill, and that was that.
I went inside feeling mightily relieved. I’d passed the test! I’d managed to work that mysterious radio without making a fool of myself! To celebrate, I took the rest of the day off.