County and community partner for disaster preparedness in North Richmond
February 29, 2008
Recognizing that faith organizations play a vital role in a community's recovery following a disaster, Contra Costa County has partnered with the faith community and the American Red Cross to hold a disaster exercise next week in North Richmond. The exercise, which runs 9 a.m. to noon Wednesday, March 5, includes a mock shelter to house people displaced by disaster and an emergency animal shelter to care for their pets at North Richmond Missionary Baptist Church. A spontaneous volunteer intake center also will be set up at nearby First African Methodist Episcopal Church (FAME), 1213 Filbert Ave, to practice processing people who might show up to help during a disaster.
This exercise is part of ongoing efforts by the Contra Costa County Sheriff's Office of Emergency Services (OES), the Red Cross and FAME Church to help North Richmond and West County residents prepare for, respond to and recover from emergencies and disasters, such as a major earthquake or refinery accident, said OES Senior Emergency Planner Michael Marchiano.
"We know that in a large scale disaster, county resources will be stretched thin so it will be essential that communities be prepared to help take care of themselves, at an individual level and a community level," Marchiano said. "We really commend FAME Church and the Red Cross for all the work they're doing."
Disasters such as Hurricane Katrina demonstrate how important faith organizations are to a community's recovery so it's important that the faith community is involved in the planning efforts. And despite the challenges that North Richmond faces, including street violence, the faith community has made disaster preparedness a priority, said Rev. Cedric Alexander, who is leading the efforts in his community as both a Red Cross volunteer and pastor of FAME Church.
"We've seen many examples of the results of disasters and the consequences of not preparing. We need to take a stand for ourselves and be involved because we know what our needs are. We're hoping to build on this, and we want to let the world know about what we're doing," Rev. Alexander said.
Participants include OES, FAME Church of North Richmond, North Richmond Missionary Baptist Church, Easter Hill Methodist Church, St. Peters CME Church, Resurrection AME Church, David Chapel CME Church, American Red Cross Bay Area Chapter, Contra Costa Health Services, Employment and Human Services, and Animal Services.
Efforts in North Richmond and Richmond have been ongoing for the past year and a half. As part of the preparation for the drill, the Red Cross has trained about 50 members of North Richmond and Richmond churches as disaster relief volunteers, said Red Cross volunteer Phil Machell. He has worked closely with Rev. Alexander on the trainings and hopes that more residents will join in the efforts.
"This is an exciting partnership between the North Richmond faith community, the county and the Red Cross," Machell said. "We're all working together to make sure our community is better prepared."
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