Disaster Preparedness: No Lunch

Sheri Burns, Executive Director of CRIL, leads preparedness workshop

Sheri Burns, Executive Director of CRIL, leads preparedness workshop

The Alameda County Department of Public Health staged its third annual Emergency Preparedness Fair in the concourse of the Oakland Coliseum this morning.  Many dozens of concerned folks from various parts of the county gathered to take workshops, check out the vendors, and network.

I got the most out of a workshop on the use of smartphone and tablet apps, led by Sheri Burns, the Executive Director of Community Resources for Independent Living (CRIL).  The indefatigable Burns also gave an earlier workshop titled “Camping out at home,” on basic preparedness.

There are literally dozens of apps that may be useful before, during and after a disaster event, Burns pointed out.  These range from the basic, such as apps that turn your phone into a flashlight or a compass or a radio, to the more

A vendor's shelter tent
A vendor’s shelter tent

sophisticated, such as the Red Cross Earthquake app that will text you when a quake has occurred, send automatic messages to your emergency contacts, and give you advice about what to do.

You can get the Android apps by going to Google Play and searching for Emergency, Disaster, Earthquake, First Aid, Safety, Red Cross, or FEMA.  Similar searches will work on Apple’s iTunes and the Blackberry app marketplace.

I found the Red Cross First Aid app and the Red Cross Earthquake apps most promising.  The FEMA app in my opinion is little more than generalities and not very useful.

A vendor of pre-packed emergency backpacks

A vendor of pre-packed emergency backpacks

There are also apps for assembling an emergency supply kit, for doing CPR, for dealing with diabetes, and much else.

Among the vendors were government agencies such as FEMA, the City of Oakland, the Alameda County Sheriff’s office, the public utilities EBMUD and PG&E, and private contractors offering everything from big shelter tents (photo) to  ready-made backpacks (photo), flashlights, field toilets, and more.  No CERT organization was among the vendors.

The workshop ran into the early afternoon, with a time out for lunch, but no actual lunch vendors were nearer than the hot dog stand in the Coliseum BART station.  The event’s advance program promised a tasting of Meals Ready to Eat at lunch.  I asked a person at the FEMA booth where this would take place.  She said, if you find out, tell me so that I can go the other way.  A person at the event information booth said the MRE tasting had been cancelled.  So, no lunch.  Part of disaster preparation, no doubt.  The revolution will not be televised.  The earthquake will not be catered.