Museum curator Amy Ellison and Ann Hepenstal, the city of Los Altos emergency preparedness coordinator, jointly curated the exhibition to reflect the stories of those affected by disasters in the Bay Area and inspire visitors to plan for potential situations.
The first section of the exhibition describes the history of emergency preparedness and improvements made through local volunteer-run organizations, including block action teams, community emergency response teams and ham radio operators.
The effects of natural disasters, such as earthquakes, floods and wildfires, are explored in the second section. Diagrams in this area illustrate where many fault lines are located throughout Northern California and explain why earthquakes happen. It also features stories from locals on how the Loma Prieta earthquake affected their lives.
Los Altos resident Linda Janus needed help getting her two stores, Cooks' Junction and Janus Fine China, cleaned up after the earthquake. Downtown Los Altos shop owners and city officials met at Heintzelman's Bookstore the day after to discuss rebuilding. Strangers became new friends when New Zealand resident Dave Green stepped up to assist Janus with the cleanup for the next three days of his trip to the area.
"We're so grateful that members of our community were willing to tell us about their experiences during Loma Prieta; it wasn't easy for them to relive those memories and it's not easy to hear about them either. However, it's important that we don't forget, that we remember both the damage that it caused, as well as how the community came together to recover and rebuild," Ellison said.
First responders are the focal point of the third section, which shows how the community relies on the work of firefighters, law enforcement, emergency medical services and backup support from the American Red Cross.
The fourth section demonstrates how visitors can take action and formulate an action plan for natural disasters. Information about how to build a home emergency kit and "go bag" for family and pets is included.
Ellison and Hepenstal hope that the exhibition will motivate visitors to take action and ready themselves for any emergency situation.
"By learning the stories of past disaster events in Los Altos and Los Altos Hills, visitors learn that the risks are real," Hepenstal said. "Seeing the local impact of disaster events is very powerful. I'm hoping that everyone who visits the exhibition leaves with at least one item they will do immediately — even simple steps like stopping at the store to buy more emergency supplies of water or sitting down with their family to review local maps and write up a family evacuation plan."
The exhibition runs through Jan. 19, 2020, at 51 S. San Antonio Road, Los Altos. The free museum is open Thursdays-Sundays, noon to 4 p.m. Workshop schedule and registration info is listed online. For more information, go to losaltoshistory.org/exhibits/be-prepared.
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