BEL AIR, CA-AUGUST 8, 2014: Rick Cole, Operations Manager for Bel Air Crest, a neighborhood in Bel Air, who is also an Incident Commander for their Emergency Preparedness Committee, is photographed inside a storage shed filled with supplies and necessities that would be needed in case of a catastrophic earthquake. (Mel Melcon/Los Angeles Times)
Tucked beneath green tennis courts in a hidden corner of Bel Air Crest, a 10-by-20-foot shed holds enough emergency equipment to stock a small hardware store — a 13,000-watt tri-fuel generator, a satellite phone and neatly organized boxes of medical supplies.
And then there’s the eight portable toilets with pop-up privacy tents. “You can’t have 1,500 people not able to go to the bathroom,” said Marsha Hierbaum, president of the Bel Air Crest Homeowners Association.
The shed is one piece of a years-long effort to ensure that all residents of the gated community are ready when the “Big One” hits. In a city populated by people expecting — but many ill-prepared to handle — a major earthquake, it is the affluent and organized hillside neighborhoods that have taken emergency preparedness to the extreme. A 6.0-magnitude earthquake that rumbled through Napa last month underscored for some how important their effort is.
Local residents have long understood that living on winding, narrow roads means they could be on their own when disaster strikes. So they have taken safety into their own hands.
Although Bel Air Crest has fewer than 300 homes, the homeowners association has spent about $50,000 on emergency supplies and equipment over the past three years, including the purchase of a 2,000-gallon water truck. A core group of about a dozen nearby Bel Air Ridge residents has met monthly for more than 20 years to discuss emergency response. And leaders in Beverly Glen recently installed a repeater in a resident’s backyard to help ensure that their hand-held radio system will work up and down the neighborhood’s canyons. Continue reading