But first, safety!

But first, safety!

Firefighters demonstrate how to extricate people from a car wreckage in Woodland Hills, Calif., on March 25, 2023. Photo by Fabiola Carrizosa

The West Valley Disaster Preparedness Fair was held at Pierce College on Saturday, educating the community on what to do in the event of emergencies. 

The West Valley-Warner Center Chamber of Commerce and Councilmember Bob Blumenfield’s office were among the sponsors of the free event that drew a crowd of families, adults and children. 

CPR lessons and fire safety awareness were some of the many informational presentations given to educate the public on what steps to take when emergencies such as wildfires, house fires and earthquakes occur. 

Woodland Hills Neighborhood Council Representative Chris Waddy thanked Pierce College for hosting an event that allowed for the community to familiarize themselves with their local government. 

“I think everyone here today can see that if we come together and we work together as a community, we can be safer,” Waddy said. “Being able to work together as one community, one voice and standing behind each other in solidarity is one of the greatest things.” 

As one of the event exhibitors, Waddy and fellow council members handed out disaster preparedness kits, flashlights and hand wipes at their information booth.

“So many things were passed out to individuals today that maybe they needed, from hand wipes to water, to support,” Waddy said. “We were able to serve so many people today not just from our booth, but from every booth, so we can let everyone know that they’re not alone and we’re stronger together.” 

Pierce College has long served as an evacuation hub for neighboring communities during wildfire season, which Winnetka Neighborhood Council President David Uebersax is grateful for. 

“I grew up in Agoura Hills and we have lots of horses up there,” Uebersax said. “When the fires come through, the horse owners all come down to Pierce with their trailers. This is one of the areas not only for humans to come to, but animals too.” 

At a nearby booth, MySafe:LA, a non-profit education and outreach partner of the LA City Fire Department, set up a demonstration to teach attendees how to properly perform hands-only CPR. 

Captain and public information officer of MySafe:LA Chris Nevil hoped to educate more people on CPR safety. 

“There’s a propensity in certain age groups for more heart issues, but sudden cardiac arrest can happen for all kinds of reasons, such as sports events, car accidents, drownings- things that can affect all ages,” Nevil said.

Nevil called the ability to perform CPR a “toolkit”. 

“It won’t always work, but it’s empowering to know that you can do something if you find someone who is unresponsive,” Nevil said. 

Nevil also shared that MySafe:LA offers free services for the community, including teaching wildfire and earthquake safety to school children and installing smoke detectors in residential homes for free.

Director of Operations at The Preparedness Network Jeffrey Weiss spoke about the importance of planning ahead with co-workers in the event of a disaster striking while in the workplace. 

“If you’re a business, organization, church, or anything else, you have a responsibility not only to yourself but to the members of your organization,” Weiss said. “Businesses have to develop a training program so they can respond to their employees and co-workers when a natural disaster happens.” 

Weiss stressed that people shouldn’t automatically wait for first responders to arrive. The moments before they arrive are crucial when dealing with emergencies and no time should be wasted.

“It doesn’t matter how big or strong you are, you can succumb to a natural disaster by falling apathetic to it,” Weiss said. 

Representatives from SoCalGas tested the knowledge of attendees by quizzing them on general gas knowledge, including how to recognize a gas leak and what to do in the event of encountering one. 

Reseda resident Maria Gonzales came to the event with her mother. They took turns practicing CPR on a mannequin.

“I wanted to know where to go and who to call in those emergencies,” Gonzales said. “As a Valley resident, it’s really important to get connected with my community and to know what to do when a natural disaster happens.” 

West Valley-Warner Center Chamber of Commerce board member Susan Tenzer encouraged the community to get familiar with the services in the area. 

“All of the services here are available to the public to make use of them,” Tenzer said. “We are available for any questions on disaster preparedness, to help you and your family. Just call the West Valley-Warner Center Chamber and we can be of assistance.” 

Store dog Huckleberry stands at his event booth representing Zoom Room Dog Training in Woodland Hills, Calif. on March 25, 2023. Photo by Fabiola Carrizosa