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Brea : Emergency Response Training Offered

Firefighters will be training community volunteers in search and rescue, medical aid, basic firefighting and disaster psychology in the latest step in the city’s emergency preparedness program.

This effort, called Brea C.A.R.E.S. (Community Assistance and Response to Emergency Situations), will establish a volunteer network to help public safety workers when their resources are stretched to the limit.

Those who complete a series of five training classes that start this fall will be certified as emergency volunteers and issued an identifying safety vest, hard hat and other equipment. Advanced classes and drills will be conducted later.

The training is designed to give people “the skills they need to get through that initial period” following a major earthquake or other disaster, said Anna Cave, the city’s emergency preparedness coordinator. “911 is not going to work,” she emphasized.

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Cave said that following the Northridge earthquake in January, most of the victims were saved by their neighbors.

Professional rescue workers initially respond to the most vital locations, including important public buildings and facilities containing hazardous materials. Neighborhoods are low on the priority list.

Trained volunteers can help their neighbors by making door-to-door searches for victims, providing medical assistance and passing along important safety information.

Another service neighbors can provide is checking on elderly residents. Senior citizens living alone are often particularly frightened during disasters, Cave said, “and they want people to come by and tell them it’s OK.”

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Volunteers will also be requested to communicate via amateur radio with Brea’s new emergency operations center at City Hall. Two backup facilities are available if the operations center is unusable.

Amateur radio “is a system that never fails,” Cave said. “We could lose our police and fire communications.” But with volunteer radio operators acting as the city’s “eyes and ears,” personnel at the emergency operations center will be able “to draw a picture of our community” and better assess the needs in residential areas.

The chances that Brea will continue to avoid a large-scale disaster are not good, said Cave, who expects a major earthquake to strike the city within 10 years.

“We sit right on top of a fault,” she said, referring to the Whittier-Elsinore fault. The city could also be severely affected by a strong temblor along the Newport-Inglewood fault or along the infamous San Andreas fault.

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“The odds are not in our favor,” she said. She said the hills next to Brea were created by earthquakes.

Temblors are not the only threats facing Brea. The city has developed highly detailed emergency response plans in case of wildfire, dam failure, nuclear accidents, flooding and incidents involving hazardous materials.

Cave said the planning also includes conducting evacuation drills at City Hall and storing emergency supplies in all municipal facilities and vehicles.

“The city is committed to emergency management,” she said. “There is no doubt about that.”

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Brea C.A.R.E.S. classes begin Oct. 3. To register, call the Fire Services Department at (714) 990-7622.


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