President Matt Ruppert introduced our speaker: Mike Taheny from Superstition Search and Rescue. Mike spoke to us on the topic of Emergency Planning and Disaster Preparedness. Mike’s many qualifications include experience as: Emergency Planning Manager at University of San Francisco and Santa Clara University, American Red Cross Board member, Emergency Manager Association Board member in Santa Clara County, Disaster Preparedness and CERT (Community Emergency Response Team) instructor.
Mike’s emergency preparedness presentation is very convincing. In fact, when he was speaking to a Rotary Club in San Francisco, the earth moved – and everyone paid close attention after that! Fortunately, our Superstition Mountain Rotary Club was all ears for the information and did not need an earthquake to be convinced of the topical relevance.
In the Phoenix area, people are often complacent about earthquakes, assuming that we are far enough away from California to be immune. Just recently, however, we experienced three earthquakes that originated north of Phoenix, reminding us that it is always good to be prepared. “If you’re prepared for an earthquake, you’re prepared for anything else that can come your way.”
Types of disaster include: earthquake, fire, flood, pandemic, and chemical. Family preparedness includes practicing disaster drills – how to evacuate and where to meet. All too often, families neglect to plan and practice, then when disaster hits, an emergency responder’s life can be unnecessarily endangered as he or she continues to search for a missing family member who is safe, but separated from the group and unaccounted for because the family neglected to designate a meeting place.
Family plans should also include an out-of-state contact. If families are separated in a disaster, all family members can coordinate with that person. Having one point of contact can speed family reunification.
Mike confessed that even his own kids rolled their eyes at his constant insistence about planning. When his daughter went away to college with her earthquake kit tucked under her arm courtesy of dad, she told him he was “being anal.” But then a few weeks later, she called him at 2 a.m. to say, “Thank you.” There had been an earthquake, and she was the only one in her dorm who knew what to do.
Mike has developed a new technique for training his kids to be prepared: he teaches his grandkids what to do in an emergency, and then they train their parents. He says it is a very effective technique.
The American Red Cross, FEMA, and other major organizations break preparedness down into three steps: Make a Plan, Build a Kit, and Get Trained. Making a plan simply involves sitting down with the family and talking through various types of emergencies. For guidance, go to:,,, or
Cell phones are also great tools. During a disaster, phone lines get tied up in the affected area. It is easier to get a call out than for others to call you (this is the reason for having a designated out-of-state contact), but even if you can’t get an outside line, you can  let others know where/how you are by changing the greeting on your cell phone voicemail. When people try to call you, they will hear your voicemail greeting and know what’s going on. Also, text messages use a sub-network (data), separate from voice calling, so you can often get through with a text message when voice traffic is jammed.