Making it safe in Whiting Woods

Photo courtesy of Lt. Ian GRIMES Glendale CERT members practice cribbing during a recent exercise in Whiting Woods area.

By Mary O’ KEEFE

A few weeks ago Whiting Woods residents were part of a drill that they hope will never become a reality.  An earthquake hit the La Crescenta and Glendale areas.  The disaster was so great it toppled homes and closed the only access street into Whiting Woods.

“We spent six months planning [the drill],” said Rik Middleton, member of the Whiting Woods Property Owners Association and Glendale Community Emergency Response Team (CERT).

Set back in the Verdugo mountains, Whiting Woods is a quiet oasis that is unique in many ways including having only one access road in and out of the development.

“If the bridge goes out that means there was a large disaster with possible fatalities and we will more than likely be on our own,” Middleton said.

That is why Middleton and members of the association decided to have a realistic emergency drill.

“At 10 a.m. on Sunday [June 13] an announcement was made of an undefined disaster.  All were told to report to a certain location,” Middleton said.

Neighborhood homes had photos on them of how they were affected by the quake. They then broke into teams for search and rescue response and reported back via radio to the neighborhood command center.  They had simulated search and rescue operations where victims were trapped with various injuries.

Middleton enlisted the help of his twin daughters, Kayla and McKenna, who portrayed victims.

The active participation from neighbors may have to do with the fact that neighbors are well aware of the potential dangers.

There were no evacuations during the Station Fire.

“But eight years ago the Burbank fire worried us,” Middleton said. “And the Caltech website has a simulation that shows a [fault] that runs directly toward Verdugo Hills.”

The team has had meetings since the drill to fine-tune
the things that worked and change the things that did not work. Middleton said that at times the team concentrated on the big concerns like rescues and triage then discovered little details, like food for volunteers, got lost in the planning.

“You have all these volunteers. You have to feed them and if we have this type of disaster there are bound to be casualties. Where do we house them?” he asked.

The Glendale Fire Department and Glendale Police Department participated in the drill. Officer Matt Zakarian said it was important for neighbors to have a plan for an emergency. This was    also a good way to promote Neighborhood Watch which, Zakarian said, goes hand and hand with CERT and this type of drill.

Whiting Woods Property Association members have been proactive when it comes to emergency planning.  Middleton said the association is not about making sure the fences are painted correctly or enforcing rules. Instead they used homeowner’s association dues to buy emergency equipment like radios.

Middleton said there are many Glendale CERT members in Whiting Woods but there is always a need for more. For those interested in joining Glendale CERT contact Tanya Gregorian at (818) 548-6404 or visit the website at