OAKLAND -- A volunteer trainer for Citizens of Oakland Respond to Emergencies told a group at a Montclair Safety Improvement Council meeting that when it comes to a major earthquake or other disaster in the Bay Area, it's not if -- but when -- it will occur.

Susan Lockwood, a volunteer trainer for CORE, spoke before about 25 people Feb. 6 at the Montclair Presbyterian Church.

CORE is a free, community-based training program for individuals and neighborhood groups designed to train participants to be self-reliant in the event of an emergency until professional emergency personnel can arrive.

New estimates recommend that neighborhoods should be prepared to survive as many as 10 days without the aid of city services, especially in the more remote hills area, Lockwood said.

CORE was begun in 1990 by the Oakland Fire Department in response to the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake, which demonstrated the need for communities to prepare themselves for the effects of a major earthquake.

The U.S. Geological Survey suggests that the next big earthquake in the area may occur on the Hayward Fault, which runs along Highway 13. The shaking could be as much as 10 times greater than hills residents experienced in the Loma Prieta earthquake, which erupted along the San Andreas Fault, Lockwood said.

A citywide disaster exercise will be held from 9 a.m. to noon April 26. Residents throughout the city who have undergone CORE training will participate in the exercise.

"Don't be surprised if you see some alarming activity along the streets of Montclair -- stretchers, people speaking over two-way radios, fire trucks cruising by, house-by-house search and rescue operations and bullhorn announcements. The bustle will be the response to a simulated 6.7 earthquake on the nearby Hayward Fault," said Doug Mosher, the chair of the Montclair Organized Neighborhoods for the Montclair Safety Improvement Council.

Montclair has 95 organized neighborhoods, averaging from 30 to 50 homes each, Mosher said.

CORE training offers a series of classes designed to teach residents how to protect their homes and their neighborhoods.

CORE I teaches families how to prepare themselves and their homes for a disaster in two-and-a-half hours.

"The first place to start is home. Get your family squared away," Lockwood said.

CORE II takes this knowledge one step further and teaches neighborhoods how to coordinate a group response to disaster.

This class includes how to set up an incident command center and search-and-rescue operation.

CORE III ties it all together with an all-day, hands-on session in which participants will experience what it would really be like to be in a disaster.

Participants learn how to get people out from under cars and learn first aid.

Michael Tigges, a Montclair resident and MSIC steering committee member, showed the safety vest, badge and hard hat given to him after he completed all three CORE classes and was certified.

He said he found the program so empowering that he is organizing a class for his neighborhood.

If neighbors gather 15 or more interested people, a CORE instructor will come to the neighborhood and teach a class.

"We want to help take the scariness out and take baby steps to get prepared. It's not overwhelming," Lockwood said.

"This is a good way to get to know your neighbors," said Barry Klezmer, of the Montera neighborhood and a steering committee member of the Montclair Safety Improvement Council.

"If your neighborhood isn't organized, go and participate somewhere else and bring back the knowledge to your neighborhood."

FYI
For more information about the CORE training program and upcoming citywide drill, visit www.oaklandcore.org, or call 510-238-6351.