ReadyLA sat down with Cynthia Saffir, lead organizer of the 3rd Annual Westside Safety and Preparedness Fair to discuss how resilience is a direct result of community emergency preparedness.
ReadyLA: What is the Westside Safety and Preparedness Fair all about?
Cynthia: This will be our third iteration of the fair, we started in 2018. At that time, our sole sponsor was the Westside Neighborhood Council. With the help of great volunteers, we organized a live safety fair at the local elementary school. Twenty different organizations and agencies were represented and we attracted about 650 attendees
The second fair was held in September 2019. We went a little bigger that time, attracting about 850 attendees with the same basic format. We trained people in Hands Only CPR and how to use a fire extinguisher. All sorts of things were offered to get people in the mindset of preparing for a possible major earthquake or disaster and to get them trained in a potentially lifesaving technique that they could use for their family, neighbors and the community.
We were going to have another fair last November, but that didn’t work out because of COVID. When we realized we weren’t going to be able to do an in-person event, we started planning an online event which is happening on Sunday, March 7th from 11am – 3pm.
Our vision for the online version of the fair is for it to be as informative, interesting and engaging as an on-site fair. We have set it up so that there will be four concurrent streams of presentations. One stream with our keynote speakers, and three other streams that will have four different presentations each, which will run a second time during the fair. We’re also including in those presentations more lifesaving techniques and skills needed during an emergency like how to shut off your utilities.
Since you are online because of the pandemic, the keynote speakers include a Seismologist, a Captain from the Los Angeles Fire Department, and an Infectious Disease Specialist. Why is it important to focus on these particular topics?
Cynthia: The advantage of focusing on all three areas is that we get to highlight the interconnectedness of alarming issues in one forum. Many people don’t understand where we are in the pandemic in terms of the variant strains and health issues involved. Just because we are in the midst of a pandemic doesn’t mean we won’t have an earthquake or fire. We need to know what our risks are if additional events within the pandemic happen.
Why is it important for Angelenos to have an earthquake evacuation plan at home?
Cynthia: If seismology predictions are true, the earthquake that we can expect, “the big one”, is not just going to damage commercial buildings. Infrastructure will be impaired, like our homes. In the 1994 Northridge Earthquake, my house caught on fire from the water heater. My family had to get out pretty quickly. The fact is that your house isn’t going to necessarily be ok if there’s a big earthquake. If you’re not prepared for it, you won’t have water and food.
We live in a potentially scary place. An earthquake will affect you no matter where you are, whether you are home or driving in your car. Chances are, if it happens during the day, your family most likely won’t be together. Kids will be at school, parents at work, they all need to know where to reunite, how to reach each other. There’s a lot to learn. It’s important to not only learn it and prepare for it, but to increase your confidence and practice so that you aren’t terrified when it does happen. That’s not to say I won’t be scared out of my mind, but once it settles down and I can assess the situation, I at least have a way to sustain myself for a period of time and everyone should do that to the extent they’re able.
Why is it important to be prepared for any disaster?
Cynthia: Because no one is coming to help you. People don’t want to hear that, but it’s true. First responders are going to go to where they can do the most good for the most people. You and your neighborhood should be self-sustaining. There’s no guarantee that first responders will be on your street any time the day of the disaster, much less possibly for a couple of weeks or more than that depending on how much damage there is.
How can the entire family get involved in preparing for a disaster?
Cynthia: It is essential for everyone to get involved in preparing for disaster. Disasters don’t just involve adults; children should know how to respond as well. Families should take time to work out how they will get out of the house if there is a problem, who will check on the dog, what things you need by your bed so you can walk out of your room safely so you don’t step on broken glass. Practice drop, cover and hold on, so that it comes naturally as soon as something happens. If you are not together when the earthquake happens, where will you meet? How will you all get there if you are separated? If cell phones aren’t working, what phone numbers should the family memorize? What items do you need to put in your emergency kit or Go Bag. It’s a process that everyone in the family can participate in.
We will have presentations for young children from Rocket Rules, and presentations for older children and teens, like “Tips for Teens: Preparedness is Not Just for Your Parents.”
Everyone has a role with helping themselves and each other if something happens.
What are some outlets or organizations people can get involved with after the fair?
Cynthia: We highly recommend that people take LAFD’s Community Emergency Response Team (CEFT) training. There are also first aid classes offered by the Red Cross and other organizations. The point in taking these classes is to empower yourself. You don’t have to wait form someone to help you, you can help yourself and help others. For instance, the Neighborhood Team Program and the Ready Your LA Neighborhood program from the Emergency Management Department work together to prepare entire communities. Both involve getting to know your neighbors and finding out what skills and resources they have so everyone can help each other during and after a disaster.
There are so many resources that will be discussed and made available throughout the fair for people to expand upon the basics they will learn at the fair.
Fair registration is now open and is required before the start of the fair.
Partners include: West Los Angeles Area LAPD, LAFD, Los Angeles EMD, The Red Cross, LAFD CERT, and more.
Major contributors to the fair include the Westside Neighborhood Council, West Los Angeles Neighborhood Council, Palms Neighborhood Council, South Bay Partners, City Council Member Paul Koretz, County Supervisor Sheila Kuehl, State Assembly Member Sydney Kamlager, Friends of West Los Angeles, and more.