By Matt Nauman
SAN FRANCISCO – The mood was festive, but the message was serious at an event staged today by PG&E and the Bay Area chapter of the American Red Cross.
Getting prepared for an emergency or a natural disaster is vital to getting through it successfully.
That was the goal of the “Make Your Game Plan Rally 2013” held at the California Academy of Sciences. The event featured NFL Hall of Famer and 49ers great Jerry Rice and Kristi Yamaguchi, an Olympic Gold Medal winning ice skater.
“I think the Red Cross and PG&E do a fantastic job getting everybody prepared.” Rice told Currents. “I’m really devoting 100 percent to this. I want to bring awareness. I want people to be ready. I want them to have their emergency kit just in case.”
PG&E President Chris Johns talked about the importance of getting everyone – from families to entire communities – better prepared.
“When you think about our goals of safe, reliable, affordable service to our customers, safety is the No. 1 thing,” Johns said. “And a key component of safety is emergency preparedness.”
That’s why PG&E has contributed $2.5 million to the Red Cross Ready Neighborhoods campaign, he said.
Ready Neighborhoods get communities prepared
Since 2011, Ready Neighborhoods has given nearly 750,000 people access to essential skills, from making proper emergency preparation to hands-only CPR and first aid. Ready Neighborhoods is targeted at 50 vulnerable communities in the Bay Area and has spread throughout Northern and Central California.
The partnership between PG&E and the Red Cross was recognized during the event by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) with its 2012 Community Preparedness Award.
Nancy Ward, FEMA’s Region IX administrator, mentioned this week’s Boston Marathon bombing and fertilizer plant explosion in Texas.
“There is nothing theoretical about the need to prepare for the whole community,” she said.
PG&E is a sponsor of the “Earthquake: Life on a Dynamic Planet” exhibit at the California Academy. And today is a free admission day at the facility in Golden Gate Park thanks to PG&E’s sponsorship. Johns noted that the Make Your Game Plan event took place on the 107th anniversary of the 1906 San Francisco earthquake.
Since then, he said, a lot of good things have happened in terms of better construction and readiness. Still, another major earthquake is inevitable. “What we want to do is work with our communities so that everybody is aware and is prepared for when that does occur,” he said.
Before and after the event, Rice and Yamaguchi signed autographs and posed for cell phone photos. On stage, they engaged in a playful banter. Yamaguchi noted that she had won the Mirror Ball prize on “Dancing with the Stars” and Rice hadn’t. Rice pulled out this three Super Bowl rings and asked Yamaguchi how many gold medals she had. The answer was one.
Then, on cue, a flash mob began a dance routine to songs such as “I Feel the Earth Move” and “Shake, Rattle and Roll.”
‘Important to have a plan in place’
In an interview with Currents, Yamaguchi talked about how she stays prepared.
“For me personally, being a mom now and having a family to look after, it’s really important to have a plan in place – not just for your family but for the community – to know what to do, what to look for and how to be prepared,” she said.
Held outdoors at the California Academy, the event featured booths with safety and emergency prep advice. PG&E handed out backpacks with needed supplies and had boards demonstrating gas and electric safety. The Red Cross, FEMA and the U.S. Geological Survey also had booths.
Russ Paulsen, executive director of community preparedness and resilience services for the American Red Cross, described the purpose of the Make Your Game Plan Rally very succinctly: “The event today is to get people to think about what we don’t want to think about.”
He added, “With earthquakes, the game is over before you start. So whatever you’ve done for preparedness is all you’re going to do other than duck, cover and hold on. It can literally mean the difference between life and death.”
Email Matt Nauman at email@example.com.