Burlingame disaster preparedness network growing quickly

Bay Area residents could be on their own for days when the next big one hits, and as the recent explosion in San Bruno has underscored, being prepared for a disaster is essential.

That’s why Terry Nagel decided to start organizing her Poppy Drive neighbors in 2006 to make the community better prepared to deal with a major earthquake.

Nagel, Burlingame’s vice mayor, and her neighbors assigned block captains, created a directory with contact numbers and useful skills and supplies in each household, and began sharing resources for putting together an earthquake kit or becoming a ham-radio operator.

Since then, the Neighborhood Network program has expanded to include 40 to 50 different groups throughout Burlingame, some with hundreds of residents signed up. In the spring, the City Council voted unanimously to integrate the network into the city’s official ­emergency response plan.

“In many cases, these are doctors or people who have some special skills that can be useful,” Nagel said. “We think we need to put more time and thought into how to make everybody valuable during a disaster.”

Organizing neighbors around disaster preparedness has caught on elsewhere on the Peninsula — including Millbrae, Hillsborough and Menlo Park — and most cities in San Mateo County offer free preparedness training for residents. But Nagel said the cities should do more to coordinate their training efforts and not be “reinventing the wheel.”

San Mateo County recently held its sixth annual disaster preparedness day, which attracted more than 1,000 participants.

sbishop@sfexaminer.com

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