City of Malibu Holds its First Safety & Preparedness Expo

We live in an area where natural disasters are inevitable; wildfires, earthquakes, mudslides and even floods have all struck Malibu at one time or another (and will again). We also live in a time where man-made tragedies like mass shootings have become regular occurrences. All of these potentially life- or property-threatening events can be mitigated with training and knowledge, and the City of Malibu provided that to residents last weekend with a free Safety & Preparedness Expo.

Dozens of agencies, nonprofit organizations and vendors were represented at the one-day expo held at City Hall last Saturday, with information booths set up both inside and outside City Hall from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. The expo also featured LA County fire trucks and other emergency vehicles on display with their doors open, a bicycle safety course featuring a mini-city for children and an earthquake simulator. 

Susan Dueñas, public safety manager for the city, who organized the event, emailed The Malibu Times confirming that approximately 300 people attended. 

“I think the Expo went very well for a first time effort—there were some clear successes and a few things we will do differently next year,” she wrote. “The best part is that we received a lot of positive feedback from participants and a lot of people thanked me for putting on the event. I hope everyone who attended learned something new, felt it was worth their time and was inspired to become even more prepared.”

A schedule of free 50-minute classes was held during the expo, and Dueñas reported about 250 total people attended at least one of the classes in the following topics: fire safety; crisis first aid; pet preparedness; building a go kit; active shooter—run, hide, fight; preparedness for seniors with American Red Cross; and fire, earthquake and flood insurance 101.

The earthquake simulator, called “Quake Cottage,” was built on a mobile trailer, and attendees were able to sit on bolted-down chairs inside and experience all the movement and shaking that would happen inside a house during a 7.5-magnitude earthquake—the magnitude of the quake that just caused a tsunami in Indonesia, killing at least 1,200. It was clear no one would be able to stand up or run for cover during a 7.5 quake—the shaking is just too severe.

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Jeff Rice, seismic installation specialist for the Safe-T-Proof company, which sells a line of fastening systems and demonstrates the Quake Cottage, says that the advice on what to do during an earthquake has changed. 

“Do not get into a doorway,” he said. “You’re going to fall and get hurt trying to get to one. Today’s advice is ‘Stop, Drop [to the floor] and Hold,’ no matter where you’re at. If you happen to be at a desk during an earthquake, get under it. But keep your hands behind your head because the desk legs could land on one of your hands; but at least the desk will be there to protect your head.”

LA County Animal Care & Control was there with a new rescue vehicle capable of holding 40 dogs and cats of different sizes in the event of a disaster. 

“We will deploy in emergencies like fires, floods and terrorist attacks,” Animal Control Officer Juan Maceda said. It and a number of other agencies had checklists on preparing a pet emergency kit. “Have a pet bag ready with food, water, meds, treats, toys, bowls,” and more, he said. 

A couple of members of Malibu’s Volunteers on Patrol, Jerri Churchill and Guy Blake, were there in the hopes of recruiting some new members. Volunteers are part of the LA County Sheriff’s Department and actively patrol Malibu in official vehicles. They are expected to be on duty at least 16 hours per month and receive on-the-job training in traffic control, disaster response, first aid and CPR, parking enforcement, business and vacation checks, and special events. 

“We learn how to report criminal or hazardous activity, and we learn observation skills and how to communicate using the sheriff’s radios,” Blake said. “We’re able to relieve a deputy of traffic duties and serve as a force multiplier. We do things like close lanes of traffic after an accident or a fallen rock and control traffic during special events like the Ride to the Flags. If anyone is interested, we encourage them to set up a ride-along.”

Malibu’s Arson Watch is also looking for volunteers, according to board member Linda Nicholas. “It’s a minimal commitment,” she said. “You have to pass a background check and fingerprinting, but only have to put in 30 hours per year riding around looking for fires—especially on red flag days.” Those interested may go to arsonwatch.com for more information. 

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