The foundation managing the settlement paid by PG&E following the Crestmoor explosion is set to launch a grant program benefiting San Bruno’s first line of defense against another tragedy.
The San Bruno Community Foundation is slated to approve Wednesday, March 7, three programs offering additional training and supplies to the city’s police and fire departments.
Local emergency response training, additional relief equipment purchases and mindfulness sessions designed to enhance relationships with the San Bruno community are among the initiatives to be financed with the $160,000 grant program.
Foundation Executive Director Leslie Hatamiya said while the programs all offer substantial benefits individually, she admired the collective opportunity to honor the tragedy that eventually birthed the foundation.
“To bolster our first responders and our city’s ability to respond to emergencies, and otherwise improve the abilities of our responders, seems like a great use of these funds,” she said.
Police Chief Ed Barberini expressed his appreciation to the foundation for considering public safety officers in the most recent round of grants.
“We are grateful to the foundation and their willingness to work with us and consider this type of training,” he said. “Without this, providing this type of training and support would not really be feasible.”
The foundation is charged with allocating the nearly $70 million paid by Pacific Gas and Electric to San Bruno following the 2010 gas pipeline explosion which destroyed a substantial portion of the Crestmoor neighborhood, killing eight and injuring 66. The restitution fund is reserved for improving the quality of life in San Bruno, while also preserving the memory of the tragedy.
Beyond honoring the foundation’s mission, Hatamiya said the grant proposals could also help protect San Bruno from the variety of disasters plaguing communities across the country.
Considering the rash of school shootings, wildfires, earthquakes, flooding and other tragedies occurring with seemingly increased frequency, Hatamiya said the initiatives funded could prepare San Bruno for a worst-case scenario.
“I think it has placed in the forefront of our consciousness really making sure that our first responders are capable and effective and getting the tools and training that the city’s budget does not currently allow for,” she said.
The programs identified were suggested following a collaboration between the foundation board of directors, administrators at City Hall and police and fire department officials, said Hatamiya. The departments also sought out federal grants for the initiatives which, if received, would trim about $20,000 from the foundation’s contribution.
Of the $160,000 total allocation, $33,000 would be paid for a storage trailer to keep 150 shelter kits with food, drinks, hygiene kits, lights, medical supplies and a generator. Acquiring the mobile system would allow San Bruno to be better prepared for an emergency, and reduce the city’s reliance on the American Red Cross or San Mateo County, which would typically provide such relief, said Hatamiya.
“There is a desire to have some of those supplies on hand and stored in San Bruno,” she said.
An additional $52,000 in grant funding would pay for a consultant to help assess potentially vulnerable community hubs then develop an emergency response plan and offer joint training sessions with police and fire departments.
San Bruno first responders identified Capuchino High School, Parkside Intermediate School and the Marine Corps Reserve Center as three local facilities which could be potential attack targets.
With the consultant, police and firefighters will develop response strategies for the sites in case of emergency with an eye on establishing a template which can be used at other potentially vulnerable public land such as other schools, as well as notable private properties such as the YouTube headquarters and The Shops at Tanforan.
Rounding out the grant program with a $75,000 initiative is a proposal to enroll police officers in the Mindful Badge program, which trains law enforcement officers to foster improved connections with local residents.
The program specializes in fortifying the bond between law enforcement and the communities they serve, by broadening the perspective of officers to be more compassionate and empathetic, according to the program’s website.
“This will make our staff more resilient. And in being more resilient, we can be more responsive and better prepared to serve our community,” said Barberini, who added the immersion program will focus on improving officer self awareness.
Such an effort could pay dividends in building techniques helping officers ramp down potentially violent scenarios which ultimately could result in lethal confrontation.
“The goal is to help officers make sure they have long, productive careers so they are better prepared to deal with the stresses and demands of this profession,” Hatamiya said.
The grant money will pay for each member of the department to attend training sessions in Oregon and also educate a few officers who will be able to host future sessions for new hires.
Beyond the improved bonds with the community, Hatamiya said the program can also help officers build strategies for coping with the more challenging components of their career.
“It helps them in their own lives and makes them a more effective police force,” she said.
The San Bruno Community Foundation meets 7 p.m. Wednesday, March 7, in the San Bruno Senior Center, 1555 Crystal Springs Road.
(650) 344-5200 ext. 105