Earthquake readiness: Menlo Park Fire Dept demonstrates response capabilities

The recent southern California earthquakes are a reminder that the big one could come at any time.

Firefighters in Menlo Park want to make sure they're ready.

Division Chief Manuel Navarro remembers how limited resources were back in 1989 during Loma Prieta.

Navarro says, "literally we were down to our hands and knees with pieces of equipment like hacksaw blades trying to get people out."

Today, nearly every blade and tool imaginable is available on Menlo Park's new heavy rescue unit. It will be operational come August.

Fire Chief Harold Schapelhouman says, "we have almost a $900,000 piece of equipment in the form of an apparatus and it carries about $250,000 worth of technical rescue equipment. To have had that back in the day would have been fantastic.”

Also at their disposal: search dogs, a fleet of drones, and new way to take advantage of the government's Shake Alert system.

Schapelhouman says, "it's great to have all those sensors. The big question is ok great but how does the message get out?"

Their solution was to use technology from a company called Sky Alert.

It turns that warning into action: automatically opening the bay doors, shutting off the gas, and issuing a verbal countdown of several seconds to firefighters.

Menlo Park also wants to make sure the public gets alerted if an earthquake is coming.

And for that they aren't relying on just cell phones, they've gone for a high tech version of an old school solution.

It's a mobile long range audio device, basically a broadcast system on a pole.

They plan to broadcast warnings when necessary in the hopes that the community can take action too.

Menlo Park has already set aside $250,000 to expand their community alert system.

The hope is to get fixed versions of these long range audio devices on their fire stations, so they can better broadcast warnings out to the public.