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Press Contact: Mary Kay Clunies-Ross, PIO, City Manager's Office, (510) 981-7008

First in the nation program gives emergency supplies to University of California, Berkeley, students living in sororities, fraternities and co-ops

Berkeley, California (Thursday, March 20, 2008) - University of California, Berkeley students who live in fraternities, sororities and co-ops are now being equipped by the City of Berkeley with emergency training and supplies for responding to earthquakes and other natural catastrophes. This is the first program in the nation to train and equip students, and will be a model for other university communities across the country.

The funding for the supplies comes from a Bay Area Urban Area Security Initiative (Office of Homeland Security) grant received by the City of Berkeley. The training is not included in the grant, but is being provided by the City to the students free of charge.

“Getting the emergency response training and the caches will help us take care of each other in case of a major disaster,” said Jennifer Heller, Communications Coordinator for the Berkeley Student Cooperative. “This is a great complement to the emergency preparedness work we already do at each residence.”

The six caches will provide some basic supplies to more than 2,000 students and includes a generator, helmets and goggles, fire extinguishers, portable lights and 2-way radios. Students are scheduled to receive training in basic preparedness, fire suppression, search and rescue, disaster first aid, radio communications and incident command systems.

“If there’s a major disaster like an earthquake, neighborhoods may need to be self-sufficient for a little while,” said Deputy Fire Chief Gil Dong. “We’re excited to be able to extend our neighborhood preparedness model to the student neighborhoods. The City and the University community have always worked together on emergency preparedness issues, and this is the latest example of that.”

Experts estimate that there is a 62 percent chance that there will be a major earthquake on the Hayward Fault in the next 30 years. That fault runs through Berkeley and adjacent to fraternity and sorority row. Because many of those buildings were built prior to the earthquake standards of the 1960s, they are very vulnerable. The danger to students is compounded by the fact that the transitory population is not as prepared or organized as more established neighborhoods.

“If the 1906 San Francisco earthquake occurred today, it would be the worst economic disaster in U.S. history and it could take between three and seven days for federal aid to reach Berkeley,” said Dr. Grahaeme A. Hesp, director of fraternity and sorority life for the Center for Student Leadership. “This program allows our housed fraternity and sorority community to be an immediate source of aid to each other. With this first-in-the-nation partnership between the University, City of Berkeley, and all the constituents of our fraternities and sororities, we are increasing the safety and security of our students.”

Cleya Ormiston, Legislative Aide for District 8 Councilmember Gordon Wozniak, UC Berkeley student, and member of Alpha Chi Omega sorority, agreed. “Fraternity and sorority chapter members have already shown immense support and excitement for the program since many of them are not from the local area,” she said. “The trainings address the fact that many students are living far from home, are removed from family members and friends who could provide this kind of aid, and are not trained in disaster preparedness. These trainings enable students to be self sufficient.”

Kenan Wang, former IFC President and a member of Chi Phi fraternity, said the support from the national organizations will make it easier to spread this program nationwide.

“This disaster preparedness program is just one example of the positive impact student groups can have in the larger community,” he said. “We hope that the UC Berkeley community can make a positive contribution to safety in the universities across the country.  We have had an outpouring of support from the national headquarters of each Greek organization, not just in implementing the program here but also in bringing it to other universities.”

The American Red Cross Bay Area is also deeply involved in Berkeley’s emergency preparedness efforts and emphasizes that there is much that students, parents and others can do to prepare. The American Red Cross has partnered with this program to provide the basic preparedness training via online training. The Red Cross has a goal of training 1 million Bay Area residents in basic preparedness by 2009.

“The Red Cross wants to ensure that everyone in the community is as prepared as they can be for a major earthquake – by making a plan, building a disaster kit and getting training that can help them in the aftermath of an earthquake,” said Madelyn Mackie, manager of the Red Cross Prepare Bay Area campaign. “We’re excited about the opportunity to work with the students at university to get them prepared.”

Additional Contacts:
Jennifer Heller, Berkeley Student Cooperative (510) 549-5959, jenniferh@usca.org
Yasmin Anwar, UC Berkeley Media Relations (510) 643-7944 or (510) 529-9006


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