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Laurene Weste: Be ready and resilient in emergencies

Posted: March 21, 2014 2:00 a.m.
Updated: March 21, 2014 2:00 a.m.

Emergencies are stressful and difficult to think about. But we’ve just had a couple of earthquakes, very close by, so now is an excellent time to think about preparedness.

Preparation can be the difference between life and death, and it greatly impacts how quickly a community can recover. The city of Santa Clarita has several events coming up to help you and your loved ones with a plan of action so you can be prepared and get through a disaster with minimum risk.

It is important to answer these questions before an emergency occurs: Where will you meet family members if separated? How will you escape your home, work place or school in an emergency?

Who is your out-of-state contact? Do you have a shelter or evacuation place in mind for animals (dog and cat crates, food, water and medication)? Can you manage your residence without power for several days?

If you aren’t sure how to answer these questions, the city wants to help.

When it comes to emergencies, it’s not a matter of “if,” but “when.”

The fact that our city has weathered 11 federally declared disasters in 26 years is a reminder that we should always practice preparedness.

One example of this effort is the upcoming SCV Emergency Expo, which will be held 9 a.m.-5 p.m. March 29 at the Hyatt Regency Valencia.

This important free community event will feature experts who can guide residents through emergency preparation and response.

Attendees will also be able to test their preparedness IQ and be entered to win prizes with a “Be Ready, Be Resilient” quiz.

As an animal lover, my pets are part of my family. That’s why I am so pleased that the Emergency Expo will also feature information on pet preparedness, a must-see for any Santa Clarita resident with four-legged or feathered friends.

For more information on the 2014 Emergency Expo event, including vendor registration, visit

Residents can also learn to stay sharp in an emergency by attending the city’s Community Emergency Response Training, or CERT program. This interactive course is led by local firefighters from the Los Angeles County Fire Department and is available in several sessions throughout the year.

Each course includes a series of seven classes integrating demonstrations, lectures, videos and skill assessments to empower attendees to act quickly during emergencies.

The CERT course is free; however, there is a $30 materials fee. The next CERT course begins April 3. To sign up, visit

There are a number of ways residents can take action personally to prepare their families for an emergency. For example: create a home evacuation plan; designate a meeting place where family members can reconnect if they are separated; identify an out-of-state contact to call if people become separated and local phone lines are down.

Parents can also keep their young children better prepared by helping them memorize their full names and addresses, as well as a parent’s telephone number.

Of course, the most crucial way to prepare for an emergency is by creating an emergency kit. Every family should create a kit to ensure they have adequate supplies for the entire family, including pets, during a disaster.

Kits can be stored easily by using a 30-gallon waste can with a lid, which can be resealed. Additional kits can be kept at home, in the car and at work, and should include the following basics:

  •  Water and food for at least seven days
  •  Utility items such as a first aid kit, flashlight, radio and tools
  •  Cash in case ATM machines are down
  •  Clothing and bedding, especially blankets and sturdy shoes
  •  A packet of important documents, medications and special needs materials for the household, including pets
  •  Medications that are vital (don’t forget special needs of your family members)
  •  Contact information for family, friends, schools, work and out-of-state contacts

Emergencies often strike without warning, but residents can receive immediate alerts and updates by signing up for the city’s emergency text or email alerts.

To do so, simply text “scemergency” to 888777 or sign up to receive email alerts at

I encourage all residents to take these tips to heart to ensure a stronger, safer Santa Clarita for years to come.

For more information on preparedness tips, classes, events and resources, visit

Laurene Weste is a member of the Santa Clarita City Council.



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