Walnut Village in Anaheim knows what to do in case of an earthquake. For the past four years, the resident-led Earthquake Committee has maintained twice-yearly earthquake drills for the full community. Most recently, the community participated in the Great Shake-Out, an earthquake preparedness program held each year on the third Thursday of October, the anniversary of the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake.
Although Walnut Village is not on any fault lines, it was constructed to withstand earthquakes. Nevertheless, "Our emergency is most likely to be an earthquake," said Judy Phillips, chair of the Earthquake Committee. "In 2017, we created a plan because there was a 5.7 level earthquake just eight miles north of us, so it shook the building pretty well. Things fell off the shelf." Although the earthquake itself didn't cause damage, it raised concerns about how to ensure residents' safety and to have a plan in case of power outages.
Walnut Village resident and retired Anaheim Police Chief Jimmie Kennedy contacted the local fire chief to ask what would be the best steps to take. The fire chief recommended having a team consisting of Floor Coordinators and Assistant Floor Coordinators for each floor, with Block Captains for each hallway. There is also a Resident Incident Commander, an Assistant Incident Commander, and a Runner who checks the garage. Together, they make up the Walnut Village Earthquake Team.
Judy said that out of approximately 200 residents, 40 of them serve on the team. "We wear yellow vests," she explained. "We have walkie-talkies and clipboards. And then we have a status sheet for each Block Captain, listing the apartment numbers, name of each person and then the issues they might have in trying to evacuate. Do they use a wheelchair or cane? Do they have pets? Do they have hearing problems or vision problems? Do they use oxygen? Those are the main things we try and keep track of."
Along with the team, all residents are encouraged to participate in each earthquake drill so that everyone is prepared. The day prior to the Great ShakeOut, residents received a handout with stickers to wear and door hangers to remind them of the drill. The day of the event, an alarm sounded to signal to residents to "duck, cover, and hold on", practicing what to do in case of an actual earthquake emergency.
In addition, as part of the drill residents place a door hanger outside their residence. On one side, the hanger says "OK" in green; on the other it says "HELP" in red. Vacant apartments have a yellow door hanger so the team knows no one is inside.
"Our goal is to locate every resident make sure they’re okay," said Judy. "If there’s a door with no door tag, then we have to check to see if their car is not in the garage. Maybe they’ve gone to the doctor or shopping." But if there's still concern, "we call the nurses and say go into the apartment and see what you can learn."
Drills usually take less than an hour. "And when the whole thing is over, Floor Coordinators, their Assistants, the Resident Incident Commander and the Assistant Resident Incident Commander gather and talk about what worked and what didn’t work. We write it up and we look for a way to improve what didn’t work," said Judy.
In addition to the drills, the team holds two training sessions each year "just to keep people fresh on their walkie talkies," Judy shared. New residents also receive a PowerPoint orientation. And each handout for the drill provides directions about what people should do, and ends by saying, "Thank you all for being ready!"
If there was only one thing she could do to prepare for an emergency, Judy said she would convince others of the importance of being prepared. Her work and the work of the Earthquake Committee have gone a long way to making this a reality at Walnut Village.
Click here to see the Facebook photo album from the 2021 Great ShakeOut at Walnut Village.
About Walnut Village
Walnut Village is a multi-level senior community located in the heart of Anaheim that offers the feel of a small-town with plenty of opportunities for socializing and creativity. Rank among the top Orange County senior communities, Walnut Village is Senior Living at its best!
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