County eyes mobile emergency shelters 

While it may not be the Hyatt, a few thousand more area residents could have shelter if a disaster strikes, thanks to new evacuation trailers full of sleeping mats and first aid equipment.

San Mateo county supervisors are expected to vote this week on whether to accept $450,000 in regional homeland security funds from San Francisco, then turn around and spend the money. The funds would purchase 12 trailers that could be towed by truck or airlifted by Chinook helicopter to area high schools, the county fairgrounds or other designated evacuation sites, county Director of Emergency Services and Homeland Security Lt. John Quinlan said.

The 12 trailers would be stored in San Francisco, San Mateo and Marin counties for easy access during an emergency, said Vicki Hennessy, deputy director of the San Francisco Department of Emergency Management’sDivision of Emergency Services.

San Francisco wants to store a number of the trailers in San Mateo County, anticipating that the largest proportion of San Francisco workers and residents would evacuate south following an earthquake or terrorist attack, Hennessy said.

"If there were a big earthquake and the freeway overpasses fell down, people leaving San Francisco wouldn’t be going anywhere, they’d be stuck, and we would have to shelter them," Quinlan said.

Equipment in the dozen trailers would help shelter about 3,600 people, providing them with staples such as rubber sleeping mats, blankets, hygiene kits of toothpaste and soap, privacy screens, commercial cleaning materials and first aid equipment, officials said.

"It’s the basics for survival rather than high-tech equipment, which in the event of a disaster is a more immediate need for our citizens," San Mateo County Supervisor Jerry Hill said.

The evacuation trailers could be called into action any time a large number of residents are put out of their homes by fire, floods or earthquakes, as well as a terrorist attack, Quinlan said.

While providing shelter for only a small proportion of the 750,000 people that could flood the Peninsula from The City during a catastrophe, the trailers would make a difference, said Lee Philipson, Red Cross disaster service manager for San Mateo County.

The county’s resources could be combined with those of the Red Cross, including a thousand more mattresses, blankets and supplies stowed around the Bay Area, Philipson said. "If we were to have anything large-scale, then the national Red Cross would kick in," Philipson added.

ecarpenter@examiner.com

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