CARLETON CRONIN | Emergency Preparedness


It’s 3:42 on a summer morning when you are startled to semiwakefulness by a jolt to your bed.

This is followed by a shaking which increases in intensity until you are fully awakened to the sounds of the contents of your kitchen and bathroom cabinet crashing to the floor. Now, you are on your feet, turning on the room light only to see it flicker and dim then go off.

You lurch to the bedroom door only to find it is somehow jammed and it takes your full weight and strength to shove it open. As you enter the living room, through your still rheumy eyes, you are greeted by the sight of toppled furniture and picture frames askew and the cacophony of countless car alarms slams through a shattered window.

You stand there, stunned, immobile, your heart pounding and your breath in gasps.

Hola! Time to panic! The “big one” has finally arrived. Were you ready?

At 2:34 on a hot Saturday, you return from a short run because it is just too damed hot. You take the elevator and enter your apartment intent upon having a large glass of water and a cooling shower.

The tap is turned on but no water. You call the building super and find out that the entire city block has no water because a big rig carrying a huge front loader has crashed through the pavement mid-block and smashed into the water main.

Dang. The shower will have to wait.

Then you remember the 5 gallon water container you bought six months ago. Saved. You were ready.


Your next door neighbor is an elderly woman who has been using an oxygen concentrator for the past year.

You have grown close to each other over the years and you keep an eye on her, concerned about her well-being.

Late one night during an electrical blackout she calls you in a panic, her voice distant and breathy. Her “machine” stopped working because of the blackout which is supposed to last about two hours.

For more than forty years scientists have been warning us and insisting that we must stop abusing our planet’s atmosphere, water resources and change the manner in which we utilize the land. Timid governments and human inertia have prevented strong measures from being enacted to address the huge potential of an altered climate. In the end it affects everything. Thinking local — last Tuesday morning I shut down the watering system for my entire grounds with some trepidation — not that they are extensive nor exotic, but that they have given me some pleasure for a long time. But now, decorative gardens are at risk.

First, because of a water resource emergency: a major pipe repair- but also because such little pleasures as a garden may not survive the need for sustaining our dwindling water supplies. The large Indian laurel (tree) is seriously stressed as it drops bushels of leaves, fruit and twigs because it lacks sufficient water for good health.

This tree species is comprises nearly twenty percent of our urban forest. Even after the pipe repair ( to be completed by September 20th) we can expect water restriction to continue and be even more harsh. At the rear of my property the sun boils down on three citrus trees. If I save anything, it will be these. Residents of apartment and condo buildings will not worry about garden but, as we all must, learn to make better use of water in their daily lives.

Harking back to other days of water rationing I recall one slogan -“Save water. Shower with a friend.” Even for those with low-flow toilets the reminder – “if it’s yellow, let it mellow. If it’s brown, flush it down.” Every utility offers a list of water and energy saving measures which are easy to follow – only your desire and discipline to follow those suggestions will make the difference. These actions are needed to prepare for more stringent rules caused by worsening conditions.

So much of our infrastructure is not just complicated but seriously expensive to maintain. How many tines have we seen repots of water mains breaking and flooding local streets? I can still picture the torrents 3 Community Emergency Response Team, a much better approach to responding to a wider variety of unsettling incidents, not just major disasters. CERT was developed by the Los Angeles City Fire Department and is now in use throughout the USA and several other countries. Once we had trained over 200 residents before the city abandoned without comment its sponsorship. For very little expense, the city should re-instate its sponsorship of CERT. It is also necessary community builder, bringing residential and commercial citizens together. The city owes it to its residents. What does a city do for its residents in a disaster? It is a given that the city, county, state will not be immediately available to aid you – in whatever situation you find yourself – during and after a major disaster. Depending upon the extent and severity of the incident, it might be several days before responding agencies can do anything for you. How to take care of yourself and others? In the event a disaster cuts off access to water, electricity, and you require medical assistance – don’t count on any response close to normal”. If an incident occurs at night or on a weekend when some agencies are at lower staffing levels – and our own City Hall is closed. Who will man our EOC (Emergency Operations Center)? Does the city have trained personnel who live in WEHO, ready to man the EOC? How are we prepared to help ourselves?

Important resources for individual preparedness –

When push comes to shove we, the residents must step up. We will need assistance from the city in terms of funding, at least, for sone of our needs. I cannot recommend CERT highly enough. It is simple, universally accepted and highly effective in answering the immediate requirements according to SCE. You go to your garage and roll out your YETI battery generator and rush next door where you connect it to her “machine” . Shortly, she remarks that she thinks she will be fine. You stay until the lights come back on. You were ready.

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About Carleton Cronin
Carleton Cronin and his wife, Toby Ann, have lived in West Hollywood since 1974. They have raised four sons here, and Cronin has long been an astute observer of civic life. Carleton publishes the blog

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Alan Strasburg
Alan Strasburg
1 year ago

Great reminder of the nuts and bolts of sound municipal governance, Mr. Cronin. Let’s see if we can squeeze this in between extended debate on flags, pronouns, and identity politics, as well as the 800 or so meaningless virtue-signaling resolutions that co-opt inordinate time during council meetings. I daren’t forget the incessant performative adjournment resolutions to far off folks like dogs in Idyllwild, Oh shoot, I almost forgot the bullying time expended by those who lecture residents from the dais. They’re going to “name names!” Neat!

1 year ago

Excellent column Carl. These readiness opportunities ave somehow faded from public view. As a child my parents and most of the community back east were prepared with generators for the buildings during snow & ice storms with Indian tanks filled at the ready in the garages for the occasional fire. It was top of mind because they knew to be successful everyone had to be vigilant. We have become a spoiled and lazy society consuming, wasting and disrespecting the world around us.

1 year ago

Great column.
Thank you.

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