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Scouts show Sonoma County about disaster preparedness at fair


Logan Reuter, 15, a member of the Boy Scouts of America Troop 9 of Petaluma, spent Sunday afternoon showing kids and their parents how to tie knots — a slipknot, bowline and clove hitch, among others — during the Petaluma Community Emergency Preparedness Fair in Walnut Park.

“You can tie the bowline around yourself to get pulled up,” Reuter said, tugging at the rope. “The clove hitch is for lashing things down.”

The free fair, launched by Troop 9 five years ago to mark National Emergency Preparedness Month in September, aims to educate families about key survival techniques necessary to weather a local disaster. All Boy and Cub Scout troops were invited to participate.

“For the community, it’s fantastic, especially for the young kids,” said Paul Borloz, an assistant scoutmaster with the troop. “They can become familiar with the fire and police departments in a way that’s helpful, while getting some good skills for dealing with emergencies and staying safe.”

BSA Troop 9 Scoutmaster John Schempf, a marriage and family therapist, could not make the fair this year because he was deployed to Miami to help counsel victims of Hurricane Irma.

Schempf said his experience in Florida underscores the need to be prepared for power outages that can affect water supply, access to cash and cellphone use for a prolonged time.

“There are a couple of things that people don’t think about,” he said, speaking by phone Sunday from Florida. “Water has to be pumped by electricity. If we have a huge earthquake, we may be without water for a couple of weeks. Money may be hard to get and cellphones will be down. We’re experiencing that here in Florida and Miami now.”

In addition to an opening ceremony presided over by Petaluma Mayor David Glass, the fair featured safety demonstrations by the Petaluma Fire Department, the Boy Scouts and the Coast Guard, among others. There were educational booths manned by the American Red Cross, Pacific Gas & Electric Co. and SoCoAlert, a new notification service that provides safety information about local emergencies.

The Coast Guard gave first aid and CPR demonstrations in the park’s gazebo while the fire department taught younger kids how to stay safe at home using Sonoma County’s fire safety trailer.

“It’s set up like a house so we can demonstrate different hazards and what you can do about it,” said Paula Dueweke, a fire inspector with the department. “There’s a stove for cooking safety plus a smoke machine and smoke alarms.”

One of the most popular booths was manned by senior public safety specialist James Wickham of PG&E, who was in Napa advising police and fire departments during the 2014 South Napa earthquake.

Wickham gave away prizes for correct answers to questions such as whether you should shut off your home gas supply if you don’t smell or hear gas (answer: No); whether you should stay or exit your car if it’s been energized by a downed power line (answer: Stay inside and call 911); and whether you should cook on a charcoal or gas grill inside the home if there is a power outage (answer: No, the carbon monoxide may kill you).

At its booth, the Petaluma Girl Scout Service Unit 108 set up an assortment of supplies needed for an emergency kit, including clothes, sleeping bags, tools, matches, compass, maps, duct tape, radio and batteries, plus freeze-dried and canned food and 1 gallon of water per day per person.

As a fundraiser, Troop 9 sold $75 survival buckets for four people for four days, $50 survival backpacks for two people for two to three days, 100-hour candles and first-aid kits for the home, car and sporting events. The buckets sold out by noon.

“We get to keep people educated about emergency preparedness, and that’s a big part of scouting,” said William Watson, 15, a member of Boy Scout Troop 9.

“The Scout motto is, ‘Be prepared.’”

Staff writer Diane Peterson can be reached at 707-521-5287 or diane.peterson@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @dianepete56.