PIEDMONT -- Residents and visitors come to Piedmont to enjoy the quiet, almost hometown feel of this East Bay community.

But like so many other cities in California, Piedmont lives with an invisible but constant threat -- earthquakes. There is no way to prevent the ground from shaking, but residents can be prepared to survive the incident and its aftermath.

Preparedness for natural disasters was the theme of an event Saturday at the Piedmont Fire Department. Local firefighters lifted children into fire trucks to show them how the vehicles operate; exhibits on disaster preparedness were available; and even Sparky the Firedog was on hand to urge people to be prepared.

"What we are teaching today is how to prepare the citizens and residents in the event of a natural disaster," said Piedmont Fire Chief Warren "Bud" McLaren. "Don't underestimate -- a peaceful community can get hit with a natural disaster at any time."

PG&E brought a simulated home to teach children how to roll over and put out a fire if their clothes catch on fire. Other exhibits explained how to prepare a survival pack to sustain a family for three days or longer.

Those who have lived in the community for some time know that Piedmont was not exempt from two of the biggest disasters in recent years.

The city's firefighters responded to emergencies throughout Oakland during the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake which collapsed freeways, damaged the Bay Bridge and killed 63 people.

In 1991, the Oakland hills firestorm claimed the lives of 25 people, destroyed homes and apartments and caused more than $1 billion in damage.

Flames threatened the city corporation yard but firefighters managed to hold back the fire and save the facility.

Saturday's event was sponsored by the Piedmont Public Safety Committee, which appointed new members at the beginning of the month.

Former Chairman Michael Gardner said a similar event was held 20 years ago and committee members decided to hold the activity on the same day as the annual Piedmont Bunny Blast in Piedmont Park.

"We thought this would be a great way to end our tenure, " Gardner said, remarking on the sunny weather and enthusiastic crowds that took part in the preparedness day.

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