Contra Costa Community Awareness and Emergency Response

News & Events

2017 CAER Highlights

A message from Tony Semenza, executive director of Contra Costa CAER.

CAER is a non-profit, public benefit corporation dedicated to community awareness and emergency response. 2017 was an exciting year for Contra Costa CAER which is one of the largest and most active CAER groups in the country with membership including representatives from industry, agencies and communities. In 2018 I will be working with our industry partners to try to increase better industry participation on many of our Action Teams. We will continue to support funding to the Action Teams so that they can accomplish their goals.

The Emergency Preparedness Action Team actively promotes planning for all types of emergencies by providing a grant program for emergency drills and works closely with the Outreach Team on the Shelter-in-Place drill. This year they provided over $10,000 in grants. Those receiving grants are required to provide CAER with a detailed description on how the funds were used so that we can continue to insure the success of this program.

The Community Outreach Action Team promotes shelter-in-place education in the community and publicizes the many resources provided by CAER. They just completed their 16th annual Shelter-in-Place drill throughout the county with public and private schools and day care centers participating. These drills have been highly successful in ensuring that schools can effectively shelter-in-place during hazardous material emergencies. This Action Team also plans and organizes CAER’s participation in many community events to promote shelter-in-place.

The Petrochemical Mutual Aid Action Team continues to work with local fire departments on conducting training and coordinating drills so that in the event of an emergency either at a fixed facility or in the community these groups can work together to mitigate the incident. They discuss ER/Safety incidents and near misses, evaluate emergency response equipment and supplies, provide emergency response mutual aid, study and implement best practices and review incidents and share lessons learned.

The Security Action Team works with law enforcement, regulatory agencies and industry to share security related information/alerts/occurrences. They provide a forum to share best practices, facilitate and improve interface among law enforcement, regulatory agencies and industry and discuss and develop methods to educate security response personnel.

The Industrial Hygiene Action Team discusses new regulations and standards related to industrial hygiene to promote effective implementation and standardization as appropriate. They share best practices, provide industrial hygiene mutual aid to the PMAO Action Team during incidents using mutual aid and assist in improvements in air monitoring efforts.

The Process Safety Action Team reviews process safety incidents/near misses and shares lessons learned. They discuss new regulations and standards and provide a forum for sharing risk management and loss prevention principles.

The Haz Mat Action Team’s purpose is to minimize the risk and impact of hazardous materials emergencies by integrating regional response training within the 16 counties of the CA OES Region II. They include training needs for EMS, law enforcement, fire, haz mat response teams, personnel, industry employees, and other resources. This team continues to work with its members on planning workshops in the future that will benefit OES Region II.

The Emergency Notification Action Team’s mission is to improve emergency notification including the Community Warning System and other mechanisms used to make timely and consistent notifications to community and agencies during an industrial accident. In 2017 the Community Warning System went to a new internet based platform which allows communications to be much quicker than they were in the past. This team identifies problems associated with emergency notification and establishes/recommends policy for hazardous material incidents.

For the last 17 years CAER has facilitated a Safety Summit program. To date we have had 60 Safety Summits with the most recent being held in December of 2017. This program brings together subject matter experts from industry, agencies and communities to share lessons learned, near misses and best practices. In 2018 we plan to conduct three additional Safety Summits with one of those Summits bringing in our friends from the Chemical Safety Board.

Overall 2017 was a very successful year for CAER. I will continue to provide updates from time to time on the progress we continue to make working with our stakeholders and partners. Our goal has always been and continues to be to work to actively enhance public health and safety.

Wally vistis First Baptist Head Start program in Pittsburg

Wally visits them every year to review Shelter in Place procedures. Taken on October 2015.

Click on an image below to open in gallery view (when open, hover over photo to move forward and back)

Martinez 4th of July Parade and Celebration

CAER at Martinez 4th of July Parade photo 1CAER at Martinez 4th of July Parade photo 2CAER at Martinez 4th of July Parade photo 3

Wally and friends make an appearance at the annual Main Street Martinez Fourth of July Parade
and Celebration.

Shelter-in-Place Drill

On Wednesday, November 2, 2016 CAER conducted its 15th Annual Shelter in Place drill for schools.

Foothill Elementary in Pittsburg was one of the model schools and Washington Elementary in Richmond was the other model school site. Both sites have over 500 children that attend each school.

A Very Successful Shelter-in-Place Drill Held at Marchus School

by Jonathan Lance, Contra Costa County Office of Education

Shelter-in-Place Drill at Marchus SchoolCONCORD, Calif., November 7, 2013—On November 6, it was a very pleasant and quiet autumn Wednesday morning at Contra Costa County Office of Education’s Marchus School, in Concord, when all of sudden, the County Warning System siren went off! Immediately following, a campus PA system directed all students and personnel into their classrooms and offices, and to close the doors behind them. The Marchus School was participating with nearly 200 other Contra Costa County schools and day-care centers in the 12th Annual Countywide Shelter-in-Place Drill to practice safety procedures in the event of a nearby hazardous material release or other incident requiring them to shelter-in-place.

This countywide drill is directed by the Contra Costa County Community Awareness and Emergency Response (CAER). CAER’s Executive Director, Tony Semenza, who was on the Marchus campus during the drill, said, “Each year we are encouraged with the increased number of participating schools CAER works with. CAER will continue to work with all the schools and childcare centers in our county to be sure that they know how and when to shelter-in-place. Teachers and students should all know shelter-in-place procedures just as they are trained about what to do in case of a fire or earthquake. I encourage everyone to join us in preparing for the worst so that we may do our best during an emergency.”

This annual safety event gives children and their caregivers an important opportunity to practice responding to the Community Warning System (CWS) alerts, which includes a series of sirens along the waterfront from Richmond to Antioch. The CWS sounds a siren when there has been a dangerous chemical release or other disaster that requires a shelter-in-place. These alerts are also sent via radio, TV, and Social Media postings.

Hazardous material releases can result from many sources in Contra Costa County, including accidents at chemical treatment plants, wastewater treatment facilities, facilities that store and/or manufacture hazardous materials, refineries, but also from collisions involving trucks or trains that transport chemicals. The possibility of accidents, make it important for the county’s youngest members to recognize and respond correctly to shelter-in-place alerts.

Tony Semenza and Jack GrossmanLong-time Marchus School teacher and campus emergency coordinator Jack Grossman (pictured on right) said, “The kids are always so cooperative when we hold our drills.” No argument from the members of CAER who were on hand to monitor the drill. As soon as school Administrative Assistant Michelle Kiernan gave the announcement over the PA, doors began closing up tight, and the few students and staff that were outside quickly followed into their classroom. At the same time, the school’s HVAC system went immediately into shutdown (so no dangerous air would pump into the campus buildings). During the ten-minute shelter-in-place drill, the CAER people were able to check the entire campus to make sure all specific emergency measures were taken. After everything was checked, it was then back to business.

Semenza (pictured on left) also reported, “This was a very successful drill, and I am so impressed with the different emergency plans that Grossman has generated for all types of emergencies this school could encounter: fire, bomb threat, earthquake, chemical spill or air quality, and intruder. Jack has each emergency readied with a campus-wide warning signal and specific procedures.” Grossman says that the school practices one of these drills a month.

Thanks to Grossman, Marchus School was able to secure an emergency grant from CAER earlier this year. He used the money to purchase portable toilets, emergency supplies, and canopy tents. “We are equipped to safely stay on campus for three days, if needed,” says Grossman.

It was a very impressive drill, and quite notable how Grossman and other Marchus employees work so hard to keep their students and fellow employees safe.

Emergency Preparedness Organization receives $900 grant from CAER

Rossmoor News photoRossmoor's Emergency Preparedness Organization (EPO) applied for a grant from the Contra Costa County Community Awareness and Emergency Response (CAER) group, and was recently awarded $900.

Marcelle Indelicato, a senior emergency planner in the Sheriff's Emergency Services Division and a member of CAER's Emergency Preparedness Action Team, presented a check to EPO President Rose Kasmai.

Kasmai says that EPO plans to use the funds to purchase FRS radios (Family Radio Service or walkie-talkies). Approximately one-half of the 290 entries in Rossmoor do not have FRS or CB radio coverage.

EPO's goal is to provide FRS radios to more entry coordinators especially in areas of the community with little or no radio network coverage. The entry coordinator may choose to operate the radio or ask a resident to be the radio operator for their entry.

Following a major disaster, the entry coordinator quickly assesses the condition of residents in his/her entry, and communicates the urgent needs of neighbors to the emergency response team via FRS or CB radio and listens for instructions. The FRS radio may also be used to communicate within the neighborhood.

Radio operators make it possible for residents to receive care and at the same time facilitate the work of the emergency response teams by providing timely information in the aftermath of a disaster.