School children acrossContra Costa County will participate in the 10th Annual Countywide Shelter in Place Drill to practice safety procedures in the chance of a nearby hazardous-material release. Directed by the Contra Costa County Community Awareness Emergency Response Group (CAER), this year’s Shelter in Place Drill will be held at 11 a.m. on Wednesday, November 2, and all public and private schools, and childcare centers throughout ContraCosta County are encouraged to participate. Last year, approximately 200 sites participated in the drill.
This annual safety event gives children and their caregivers an important opportunity to practice responding to the Community Warning System (CWS) alerts, which sound a siren when there has been a dangerous chemical release or other disaster that requires a Shelter in Place. These alerts can be sent via sirens, radio, TV, and social media postings, and subscribed cell-phone-text messages.
Hazardous-material releases can result from many sources in Contra Costa County, including accidents at chemical treatment plants, wastewater treatment plants, facilities that store and/or manufacture hazardous materials and refineries, but also from collisions involving trucks or trains that transport chemicals. The possibility of accidents and the threat of terrorism make it important for residents, which include the county’s youngest members, to recognize and respond correctly to shelter-in-place alerts.
Shelter in place means to make a shelter out of the place you are in. It is a way for you to make the building as safe as possible to protect yourself until help arrives or the emergency has passed. You should not try to shelter in a vehicle unless you have no other choice. Vehicles are not airtight enough to give you adequate protection from chemicals.
CAER is a coalition of local agencies, businesses, industries, community groups, and emergency response organizations. The non-profit organization works together to improve emergency response planning and inform the public about how to react in the event of a hazardous materials emergency.
CAER Executive Director Tony Semenza says, “Contra Costa CAER is encouraged each year with increased number of participating Shelter in Place schools. CAER works with, and will continue to work with, all the schools 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.”