On Saturday morning, Oct. 13, two blocks of Montecito Heights will become a disaster area.
There will be broken bones. Amputated body parts. Grisly wounds. Loud rumbling sounds will echo the devastation and ruin all around.
Great ShakeOut Drill
That might sound like an over-the-top Halloween haunted house but it's actually The Arroyo Seco Neighborhood Council Great ShakeOut Drill: a mock disaster preparation designed to inspire neighborhoods to develop or review disaster plans in anticipation of "the Big One".
The Arroyo Seco test exercise, a side project of the Great California ShakeOut Drill scheduled for Thursday, October 18, will be filmed so Angelenos will have a better idea of how to take care of themselves and their neighbors after a disaster when police and fire departments aren't able to immediately respond to everyone.
"Loud Rumbling Sounds of the Big One"
NELA residents should be aware that "Loud Rumbling Sounds of the Big One" (per the Emergency Management Department) will signal the start of the drill at 9 a.m. near the Montecito Heights Recreation Center.
“There’s going to be really good sound effects,” confirms Montecito Heights resident Marissa Hernandez who’ll be playing a pregnant victim in the drill. “It’s going to sound like there really is an earthquake.”
It’s also going to look as if there really is an earthquake.
The disaster drill will be staged as realistically as possible with search and rescue teams going door to door, a medi-vac helicopter with rappelling rescuers, a second story “extraction”, and volunteer “victims” whose gruesome, fake wounds are courtesy of “moulage” artists who specialize in make-up effects for emergency training.
According to volunteer victim Eve Martinez Pulchik, who will have an amputated limb, the shockingly realistic injuries are a crucial component because CERT teams have to be prepared for what they actually might find. “When something this big happens, it’s a situation you’re not prepared for,” notes Pulchik. “If a building comes down, it’s not going to be a bump on the head. It’s going to crush you.”
A Big Disaster on a Small Scale
Because the Arroyo Seco Neighborhood Council applied to be a Great ShakeOut test case, all five communities in the ASNC (Mount Washington, Montecito Heights, Monterey Hills, Hermon and Sycamore Grove) were initially considered for the drill. But according to ASNC President Martha Benedict, it was “decided that a tightly focused project would yield more meaningful results. The two streets Homer and Mosher were the most accessible and presented fairly typical conditions for a Los Angeles neighborhood."
The tightly knit Montecito Heights neighborhood has also been a rich resource. ASNC board member Roy Payan, who has led the drill planning and will be CERT Captain on Saturday, has “extensive CERT experience, heads the CERT team in Montecito Heights, [and] served during the Katrina disaster with Red Cross,” according to Benedict.
Payan’s participation inspired others to join, such as Mosher Avenue resident Danny Duarte, who just finished his CERT training and is part of the communications emergency response team. “My goal is to help my family and friends,” says Duarte, whose uncles and grandmother have lived in Montecito Heights for decades. “I’m invested in this community. I have a personal stake.”
A Variety of Volunteers Still Needed
Volunteers—who will be entered into raffles for prizes like an iPad—are still needed to participate.
All are welcome.
Luis M. Aguilar, who is on the search and rescue and communication teams, notes that “a variety of scenarios will play out. Special needs kids and adults, people in wheelchairs…it’s going to be as real as possible. There’s even going to be a Disaster Animal Rescue Team.”
Disaster Survival Fair
After the drill ends at 11 a.m., walk over to the Disaster Survival Fair at Sycamore Grove Park. There, you’ll find further emergency information at booths such as “Handle Woof Care Dog Training” where longtime dog trainer/animal rescuer Lezle Stein will educate the public about “dog necessities needed for a long term emergency—microchipping/tags, medication, food and water, [and] where to go to look for your lost dog or cat.”
The Arroyo Seco Great ShakeOut Drill takes place 9 a.m. – 11 a.m. near the Montecito Heights Recreation Center, 4545 Homer St., 90042. Observers and visitors are encouraged to arrive early to secure good viewing locations. The Disaster Survival Fair takes place 11 a.m. – 2 p.m. at Sycamore Park, 4702 N Figueroa St., 90042. The Fair is in walking distance from the drill location. For more information, visit www.shakeout.org/arroyo.