By Lowen Baumgarten
April is Earthquake Preparedness Month, and to help strengthen California communities’ readiness for such potential disasters, PG&E today pledged $1 million to support launching the American Red Cross Ready Neighborhoods program. The new program focuses on the most vulnerable communities across Northern and Central California, setting up disaster-preparedness resources including community groups to help in the effort, identifying shelter locations, response training and free emergency kits.
PG&E announced the $1 million pledge during a news conference with local leaders at the Red Cross Prep Rally in San Francisco’s Union Square.
“This is a mission we started with PG&E’s support five years ago to do a program called Prepare Bay Area,” said Harold Brooks, CEO of the American Red Cross Bay Area Chapter. “What we’re doing with this new Ready Neighborhoods program is focusing on the most vulnerable… and making the information available to the larger community, so that when something happens here, we’ll all be able to take care of ourselves and then reach out and take care of our neighbors.”
Brooks explained that the Ready Neighborhoods program focuses on 50 communities that have high levels of poverty, residents that only speak one language or have other potential difficulties in responding to a disaster.
“We see our initial investment here as an opportunity to make a difference, immediately, in 50 different communities in our service territory,” said PG&E President Chris Johns, who presented Brooks with a ceremonial check, “making sure that our customers, and our neighbors and our friends, have the resources available to be ready for any kind of disaster.”
With a packed crowd under a tent in Union Square, the Prep Rally took off even before the press conference began. Local residents visited booths hosted by the Red Cross and partner organizations such as the San Francisco Department of Emergency Management, where they played quiz games to test their disaster preparedness knowledge.
At one booth, attendees played a game like the quiz show “Jeopardy,” choosing a category and point value, then getting a question about how much clean water per person each household should have on hand. (The answer is three gallons). Three correct answers at three different booths allowed attendees to enter to win one of several free Red Cross preparedness kits.
Many of the speakers at the press conference cited the recent series of disasters in Japan, beginning with the March 11 earthquake, as both a reminder of the importance of preparedness and as an inspiring demonstration of the power of neighbors helping neighbors.
“This month began with a very serious event in Japan, and the lesson we learned is: how can we be more ready,” said San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee. “That’s why I’m thankful to PG&E and the Red Cross for unveiling the Ready Neighborhoods program. This money, thanks to PG&E, is targeting the most vulnerable neighborhoods.”