One never knows when a disaster may strike, whether it be natural or manmade, and the Japantown Prepared! emergency preparedness effort has been led by Rich Saito and his team to develop a community-wide response plan in the event of a major disaster. The overall intent of this effort is to preserve life and minimize injuries by proactively preparing Agency Emergency Plans for Japantown businesses and organizations that enables everyone to be knowledgeable of what to do in a disaster.
Rich has been working with the Issei Memorial Building (IMB) tenants to help develop both our Emergency Plan and building improvements to make us safer. In fact, a major focus of our annual IMB Clean-up Day was to make safety improvements such as securing book cases, file cabinets and glass framed pictures. The kitchen’s high shelving cabinet doors were secured with quake latches to prevent items from tumbling out on top of people. Additional fire extinguishers were mounted strategically. We also purchased gas/water shut off wrenches and small pry bars to help open potentially jammed doors that may trap occupants. Rolls of tape are on hand to enable a safe-room’s windows and doors to be sealed in case of airborne contaminant events (note: do not use bathroom fans or you may draw-in outside contaminants since the fan will depressurize the interior). Readily accessible emergency whistles taped to the underside of furniture in the IMB offices also provide a means for “calling” for help if necessary. But we still have items to address like unsticking windows that have been painted shut and filling our “Grab and Go Box” with essentials.
Although physical improvements are a major component of emergency preparedness, just as critical is the information component for any plan of action. People need to know ahead of time what to do and expect to help reduce confusion, increase efficiency and support an organized response. Therefore, we are drafting our IMB Emergency Plan identifying the basic information needed by the IMB tenants to respond in an emergency. We are including the mapping the locations of the gas and water shut off valves, fire extinguishers, emergency supplies, exit pathways, gathering /meeting areas, etc. And we have identified emergency responders to ensure that people will check the IMB and grounds in case of a major disaster. As a small but important part of the plan, it is encouraged that all responders and volunteers also prepare their own personal emergency plans and grab and go kits that will enable them to quickly assess their status and thereby feel comfortable in assisting in the Japantown Prepared! effort if needed.
The Japantown Prepared! group follows the internationally recognized Standardized Emergency Management System (SEMS), developed by a U.S. firefighter, that now provides everyone with a structure for command decisions to be made during an emergency. As such, Japantown participants will report to the Incident Commander at the Emergency Operations Center (EOC) who will then marshal the available resources/people to address critical needs. Immediately after a disaster, the Japantown EOC has been identified as centrally located Roy’s Station at 5th and Jackson Streets. And the San Jose JACL Board of Directors have offered the IMB as an EOC if it is needed after the initial event settles down and the IMB is cleared for occupancy. A major disaster may require a lengthy recovery period and our Board felt that the IMB facility could provide needed space to assist in this effort. And the EOC use falls in line with our mandate to use the IMB “in the best interests of the Japantown community”. The IMB was first built over a century ago as a hospital to serve the community, it then sheltered those who came back from the camps with no place to stay, it was and is the incubator site for many J-town organizations and we hope will continue its legacy of support for those in need well into the future… Be safe everyone!
(article by Leon Kimura)