Be prepared!

I recently had the honor of attending the ceremonial induction of four Pleasant Hill teens who had achieved the rank of Eagle Scout. Each young man had diligently worked their way up the ranks, ever following the enduring Scout motto of "Be Prepared."

That mantra of preparedness was brought to the forefront for all of us at 3:20 a.m. Aug. 24, when a 6.0 earthquake rolled through the region. The epicenter in American Canyon was barely 24 miles away from Pleasant Hill.

As a native San Franciscan I have experienced my fair share of earthquakes, but I was out of town this past weekend and missed this one. My friends and family tell me it was "big." Experts, however, say this was not "The Big One," which is still to come.

My son who was housesitting, called to tell me about it and reported that there was no damage at home (but that the shake had apparently fixed the malfunctioning fan in the bathroom).

I am informed Pleasant Hill in general experienced no property damage and no resident suffered injury. Unfortunately, the same was not true for our neighbors in Napa, Vallejo, American Canyon and the surrounding areas.

As I watched on TV as the first responders took charge in Napa I reflected on my own disaster preparedness. Fortunately, I am a graduate of Pleasant Hill's Community Emergency Response Team six-week training program.


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CERT recognizes that in the event of a major disaster our first responders will likely be unavailable to immediately address all consequences. CERT thus provides individuals with basic training in disaster survival and rescue skills to be able to provide help to neighbors, improving the ability of residents to survive until responders or other assistance arrives.

The CERT training included teaching me to manage utilities and put out small fires and provide basic medical aid. I also received training in search and rescue and collecting disaster intelligence to support first responder efforts.

The Napa Quake serves as a reminder that we need to "Be Prepared." More than 350 Pleasant Hill residents have completed the CERT training. However, we number nearly 33,000 people in our city and I urge you contact CERT and receive your training, too.

CERT offers three training classes per year and refresher courses for graduates. You can find out more about CERT and the next training program at www.pleasanthillcert.com.

This October marks the 25th anniversary of the Loma Prieta Earthquake and in recognition, CERT and the Pleasant Hill Recreation & Park District are co-sponsoring a monthly speaker series.

Kicking off the series at 7 p.m. Oct. 16, at the Community Center will be a presentation on the Loma Prieta earthquake, the history of Hayward Fault quakes, and the expected effects of a major earthquake on the Hayward Fault.

Dr. David P. Schwartz, senior geologist with the USGS, and co-chairman of the Bay Area Earthquake Alliance, is the featured speaker.

Seating is free, but limited for each presentation. It is recommended that you reserve your seat by contacting my good friend Jim Bonato at 938-5433 or jbonato@aol.com.

Cook-Off!

Last month I reported to you that I would be attending the sixth annual Contra Costa County Mayors' Healthy Cook-off at Todos Santos Plaza in Concord.

Although I am more of a gourmand than a gourmet, I recruited Chef Oscar Patlan from El Aguila to represent Pleasant Hill in the Iron Chef-style competition. Oscar and his wife Giorgia are the owners of the farm-to-table Mexican cuisine gem of a restaurant located at 1300 Contra Costa Blvd.

We nervously gathered at the plaza on July 31 in 100+ degree weather with the other participating cities and were given a whole chicken, tofu, polenta, walnuts, cheese and various produce items from local farmers. No spices were allowed -- only salt, pepper and olive oil.

Oscar took charge and soon had me wrapping chicken in parchment paper and foil, slicing cherry tomatoes and grapes, and puréeing with an immersion blender. This device brings the blender to the food, rather than the food to the blender which, in my opinion, exponentially increases the risk of blender splatter -- stand back!

Oscar wisely kept me away from the mandolin and the larger knives. I was amazed at his skill and artistry. We were ably assisted by Mt. Diablo High School student sous chef-in-training Christian Torres and a number of Pleasant Hill volunteers who helped set up and decorate our booth and keep us hydrated. (The Walnut Creek chef passed out with heat stroke and was carried off in a stretcher by the Fire Department -- he is fine).

So what healthy menu did "we" create in just over an hour and then plate for 15 judges? Check out this menu:

Chilled lentil soup garnished with cherry tomatoes, basil and olive oil

Grilled spinach salad with peaches and grapes with a drizzle of blackberry/basil dressing

Tofu roll with yellow squash, grilled eggplant and cilantro, garnished with a daikon and red onion relish. (These items were plated together as a starter or vegetarian offering).

Polenta gratin with sauteed kale, mozzarella cheese and walnuts

Chicken mixiote with yellow squash, basil, fennel, olive oil, salt and pepper

(The chicken and vegetables were piled on top of the polenta and kale).

Although we were exhausted from the pressure and heat, the hard work paid off! Pleasant Hill placed third in the county and we now move on to compete with the top three mayor/chef combos of Alameda County.

I am told that competition will be scheduled sometime in October. Stay tuned for the date and be sure to come out and cheer on your home team! And put down the doughnut and have a piece of fruit.

CSD X

This year marks the 10th anniversary of Community Service Day, which takes place Saturday, Sept. 27. By the time you are reading this I hope you have submitted a project or signed up to help.

There are a number of school cleanup projects, a food drive, the Bike Build-a-Thon, 'Crafts for the Community' sewing project at St. Mark's Lutheran Church, YMCA painting and landscaping, Pleasant Hill Instructional Garden and more.

You will find there are projects for everyone of all abilities and ages -- so you can pick a project for the whole family to work together side by side.

Community Service Day kicks off at 7:30 a.m. at Pleasant Hill Park with volunteers gathering for a free pancake breakfast courtesy of the Lions Club. The first 600 volunteers to register at the park that day also receive a free event T-shirt and special commemorative gardening gloves, plus snacks and drinks to take with you to your project sites.

In recognition of the 10 years of volunteerism, at City Hall during the month of September the Civic Action Commission will host an exhibit of photographs and video footage from the previous nine Community Service Day events.

The CAC has also produced a special commemorative video to be aired on the city channel. Drop by City Hall in September and see how this annual service day started with a few hundred volunteers and grew into an award-winning event that inspired several neighboring cities to follow suit.

Be sure to check out the framed T-shirt signed by all the volunteers from our very first service day back in 2005.

If you haven't signed up for CSD X yet, go to www.pleasant-hill.net/volunteer where you will find all of the projects currently registered. If you want to register a project, go to www.pleasant-hill.net/csd.

Timothy M. Flaherty is the mayor of Pleasant Hill. Contact him at tflaherty@ci.pleasant-hill.ca.us.