The city of Calabasas plans to stash emergency supplies in key locations in case the town is ever cut off from metropolitan areas during a calamity.
Although disaster preparations for the 3-year-old city were discussed before the Northridge earthquake, the collapse of several freeways Jan. 17 brought into focus how vulnerable Calabasas would be if its lifeline to Los Angeles and Thousand Oaks--the Ventura Freeway--were damaged.
"Calabasas has only a few exits, which is good in case there is a crime here," said Arnold Bresky, designer of the city's innovative safety idea. "But if there is a major emergency, we suddenly become an isolated little place."
The City Council gave Bresky preliminary approval March 30 for plans to place first aid supplies and other emergency items in six locked, waterproof boxes throughout the city. Up to $20,000 for the project will be considered before June 30 as part of next year's budget.
The boxes, said Bresky, would include bandages, antiseptic, splints, stretchers and suture equipment, as well as food, water, flashlights, shovels, crowbars, generators and hand-held radios. The supplies would be designed to carry the city through the first 72 hours of a catastrophe.
Each box also would include names and phone numbers of more than 40 medics in Calabasas who already have agreed to be on call during an emergency.
For Bresky, the so-called MASH program (he named it for the Army medical unit) is a result of the fend-for-yourself attitude by which this country was made.
"Calabasas is a frontier city, in a way," said the obstetrician/gynecologist and community activist. "We have to live up to Ralph Waldo Emerson's idea of self-reliance. We have to take care of ourselves."
Few other cities have undertaken such disaster preparedness. One that has is Santa Fe Springs, which recently won an award from the Federal Emergency Management Agency for its system of stashed emergency supplies put in place after the 1987 Whittier earthquake.
"We haven't had to use them yet, thankfully," said Santa Fe Springs City Manager Donald Powell. "But having the equipment there gives a sense of security. You never know when somebody's going to get trapped in a house in some disaster, and regular people are going to have to do some digging."