CERTs: The Real Lifesavers

Bay Farm Island residents prepare for the next major earthquake

Bay Farm Beat

Bay Farm Island's lack of disaster preparedness was the subject of a meeting of local residents July 2, who are seeking ways to beef up the Island's readiness for an emergency.

Representatives of 20 homeowners' associations, several churches, the police and fire department, the school district and businesses, among others met to find ways to recruit more people to join a squad of trained volunteers who will theoretically assist citizens and the authorities after the next big earthquake. The volunteers, called the Community Emergency Response Team (CERT), go through a multi-week training course before being certified.

If there were a major disaster, with fires on both the main island and Bay Farm Island, Bay Farm would be on its own, according to Michael Robles-Wong, president of the Community of Harbor Bay Isle Homeowners' Association (CHBI HOA).

With just 120 CERT members on Bay Farm Island and more than 15,000 residents, there are not nearly enough people to maintain safety during an emergency.

"If we actually had a [major] fire here, there isn't enough equipment and manpower to handle that," Robles-Wong said.

Last year the homeowners board voted to purchase two mobile disaster units "exclusively" for the Bay Farm community in the event of an emergency. With the help of the nearby business parks, the trailers are being built. One will be stored in the Peet's Coffee & Tea Roastery parking lot and the other will be stored at Fire Station 4. The units will contain CERT kits, electrical equipment, tools, radios, logistic plans, water and coffee.

But the units alone won't be enough in the event of a major disaster. That's why Bay Farm Island residents are being urged to sign up for training sessions. "We want to approve at least 50 new CERT members by the end of this year," Fred Blas, a member of the Alameda CERT executive committee, said. Training sessions teach hazard mitigation, fire suppression and disaster search and rescue techniques.

"It takes about 18 firefighters to contain a fully raging fire," Blas said, "and we have only four." And with just 28 firefighters total in Alameda on duty at any one time, there are not enough to go around.

Blas and Robles-Wong believe that in order for Bay Farm Island to survive the next major earthquake, there should be at least one team in every neighborhood on the Island. "There's gonna be CERTs in every neighborhood, and we're gonna make it happen," Blas said confidently.


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