Thu05052016

News

Hills man arrested on molestation charges

Hills man arrested on molestation charges

Gregory Helfrich

Santa Clara Sheriff’s detectives have arrested a Los Altos Hills man they suspect repeatedly molested a child decades ago.

Detectives arrested Gregory Helfrich, 54, on a warrant at his Old Page Mill Road home April 27 and...

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Schools

Local AAUW gives gift of science to junior high students

Local AAUW gives gift of science to junior high students


Courtesy of Jessica Harell
Blach Intermediate School seventh-grader Paris Harrell, who loves science and animals, recently received a scholarship from the local branch of the AAUW to attend Tech Trek camp.

It’s not every day that a junior hig...

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Community

At 98, former language teacher remains a lifelong learner

At 98, former language teacher remains a lifelong learner


Federici

Longtime Los Altos resident Mario Federici, who turned 98 Feb. 24, is a man of many languages. He shared his knowledge with thousands of students during his long career as a teacher.

Federici was born and raised in Italy, where he stud...

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Comment

Attend an event, get involved, have fun: Editorial

You don’t have to run for city council to get involved in the community. Sometimes it can be as simple as attending a Los Altos event. You’ll have plenty of opportunities, as the May and June calendars are bustling with activity.

The Dow...

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Special Sections

Racing around Monterey

Racing around Monterey


Gary Anderson/Special to the Town Crier
The easy handling of the VW Golf R, above, makes for an ideal ride along the Big Sur coast.

 

When automotive journalists are asked to list their favorite places in the world to drive, Monterey alway...

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Business

'Steampunk' eatery toasts local libations

'Steampunk' eatery toasts local libations


Courtesy of Eureka
Eureka, a new restaurant in downtown Mountain View, highlights local craft beer and whiskeys on a menu of food spanning from sea to farm.

Craft beer and fancy whiskeys headline the menu at Eureka, the new restaurant that opene...

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People

Stepping Out

PA Players seek escape in 'Into the Woods'

PA Players seek escape in 'Into the Woods'


Courtesy of Palo Alto Players
The Baker’s Wife, left, and Cinderella’s erstwhile Prince stand out in the Palo Alto Players production of “Into the Woods.”

Little Red Riding Hood sets forth at the outset of “Into the...

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Spiritual Life

Los Altos United Methodist Church service salutes Heifer International

Los Altos United Methodist Church service salutes Heifer International


Courtesy of Los ALtos United Methodist Church
Hidden Villa will bring some of its farm animals to Los Altos United Methodist Church Sunday to support the nonprofit Heifer International.

Los Altos United Methodist Church is scheduled to salute th...

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Journey through CERT: Week 1


Photo By: Ellie Van Houtte/ Town Crier
Photo Ellie Van Houtte/ Town CrierCommunity Emergency Response Team participants in Los Altos Hills train to become disaster-service workers who assist others in their neighborhoods in the aftermath of a catastrophe.

 

Over the next six weeks, Town Crier staff writer and photographer Ellie Van Houtte will chronicle her Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) training. Her experience during week one follows.

 

As someone who’s lived in California for just one year, I’ve never experienced the tremors of an earthquake – or the wrath of any major catastrophe.

With three active faults near where I now live and work, I recently wondered whether I’m prepared to handle the minutes, days and weeks following a disaster. I’m afraid I’m not.

When I began reporting last fall on Los Altos Hills’ efforts to prepare residents for disaster response, I watched in awe as a Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) executed a complex simulated post-disaster drill at Foothill College like musicians in a symphony. The simulation involved setting up ARK – an incident command center for the Los Altos Hills CERT team – where a few people orchestrated a platoon of trained volunteers via a series of exercises that funneled information from the town’s 56 neighborhood zones.

The exercise was a wake-up call for me. The danger of an earthquake, wildfire or major storm in the area is real, and I needed to be prepared for it.

When Mike Sanders, the Santa Clara County Fire Department’s emergency services coordinator, suggested that I enroll in Los Altos Hills’ sixth annual CERT class, I didn’t hesitate.

The 18-hour training, which began April 9, is scheduled four Tuesday nights and one Saturday.

When my 21 classmates and I arrived at Los Altos Hills Town Hall for the first session, several trained CERT members welcomed us with a receiving line

Minutes later, we had collected town maps and a 300-page field operating guide, posed for headshots and raised our right hands to become volunteer disaster-service workers. According to Sanders, that oath is important and ensures that any CERT member injured while engaging in official disaster service would be eligible for workers’ compensation.

But any misperceptions that CERT designation gives someone a “go anywhere” or “get-out-of-jail-free card” were quickly dispelled.

“Only do what you’re trained to do,” Sanders said. “Just because you’re a CERT member doesn’t mean you can do everything a firefighter can.”

What is CERT?

Those running the session explained what CERT is – and does.

Although emergency responders and other medical personnel are best equipped to handle challenging situations, they might not be able to reach those in need immediately after a catastrophe strikes. That’s where California’s 150,000 CERT members come in.

CERT members are seen as the eyes and ears on the ground. They play a critical role in securing vital resources and services in the wake of a disaster.

“Your job is to collect as much data as possible, as quickly and accurately as possible,” Sanders said.

After collecting neighborhood data, members forward it to the ARK, the CERT command center. The information travels up the chain of communications – from Los Altos Hills’ Emergency Operation Center to County Emergency Services, the Coastal Region Emergency Operations Center and as far as the California Emergency Management Agency, which operates 24/7.

‘We’re all in it together’

People taking this year’s CERT training are doing so for myriad reasons – some want to know their neighbors better, while others remember the aftermath of 9/11. Two teachers from St. Nicholas Catholic School said they enrolled to make their campus safer, and staff from Daughters of Charity want to be prepared if an earthquake strikes.

At the conclusion of the first class, I began to better understand the value of CERT. It’s more than the backpack of supplies and manuals I clasped in my arms as I left – it’s the opportunity to connect with people who live in the community where I work. I might someday be a lifeline for these people or they for me, in unforeseen circumstances.

CERT supervisor Richard Green summarized it best: “A disaster is something beyond normal … beyond your capacity. … We’re all in it together.”

To read Van Houtte’s Week 2 entry on CERT’s simulated triage exercises and disaster medical operations, click here.

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