Descanso Gardens played host to the emergency expo “Play It Safe” on Saturday. The Garden's overflow parking lot was filled with fire engines, emergency equipment and information booths with advice on how to survive a disaster.
The event was sponsored by the Los Angeles County Fire Department in association with Descanso Gardens, Assemblymember Anthony Portantino, City of La Cañada Flintridge, La Cañada Chamber of Commerce, LA County Sheriff's Department and California Fire Safe Council.
Visitors to the expo learned not only how the professionals and officials in their community are preparing for the next disaster but what they, as individuals, can do.
“I have never been in an earthquake before; I don't even know what it is like,” said Corey Nalley. “I'm from upstate New York.”
Nalley was at the expo with his 18-month-old son, Nicholas. He had no experience with earthquakes and, being a new father, wanted to learn all he could to prepare.
Firefighters and paramedics demonstrated how they react to emergency situations like vehicular accidents. A crowd watched as a firefighter used the jaws of life to open a door of a vehicle that had been brought in for the demonstration.
Community volunteer booths invited the public to join organizations like Crescenta Valley Sheriff's volunteer arson watch, Community Emergency Response Team [CERT] and Volunteer Emergency Response Team [VERT] in La Cañada.
The community teams consist of volunteers who are trained at the sheriff station in safety and life-saving skills. Their primary function is to act as support for police, fire and medical professionals following a major disaster. The volunteer response team consists of La Cañada residents who have gone through training.
“This is an additional program,” said David Stegner, the city's public safety coordinator. “Once you have taken care of your family and neighbors and are interested in [doing] more, VERT [takes over],” Stegner said.
The members do more than emergency response. They provide first aid at the Fiesta Days parade and at the La Cañada Elementary School Halloween Carnival. Stegner said that members are out in the community at various events which not only allows them to exercise their disaster response skills but also allows them to connect with local residents. When an emergency occurs, the community is comforted by seeing familiar faces.