UCSF Students Talk Disaster Preparedness In Chinatown

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

On the first Sunday of their spring break, a group of pharmacy students threaded their way through throngs of people in the streets of San Francisco’s Chinatown to reach the YMCA.

Alongside high school Cantonese translators, UCSF students presented the topics of “Bleach and Waste Management” and “Duct Tape and Garbage Bags” before an audience of Chinatown single room occupancy (SRO) residents.

It was the third in a series of five disaster-preparedness workshops for SRO residents in Chinatown. The workshop was a collaborative effort among UCSF students of all professional schools, bilingual high school translators, the Chinatown Community Development Center and the Chinatown Public Health Center, among others.

A SRO is usually a building complex consisting of small, eight-by-ten foot rooms, in which entire families might live with communal restrooms and kitchens. (While not the topic of this article, there has been some concern over the conditions and treatment of residents in the SROs.)

Residents in these cramped conditions, with limited space for the storage of food, water and other necessities for survival, have historically fared the worst after a disaster, which inspired the need for such workshops.

During the “Duct Tape and Garbage Bags” session, the audience chuckled as students pulled garbage bags over their heads to serve as a makeshift raincoat and nodded in understanding as the students demonstrated how duct tape could be used to make bandages, drinking cups and rope in an emergency.

In “Bleach and Waste Management,” one audience member enthusiastically volunteered to make a 10 percent bleach solution, for larger waste spills, and a 1 percent bleach solution for smaller blood spills and ordinary household cleaning.

As for waste management during an emergency, let’s just say that demonstration involved a bucket, a garbage bag, and a crucial piece of advice to always label the human waste bag — for safety reasons, of course. In the end, participants received complimentary items such as duct tape and rope to add to their disaster-preparedness kits.

The workshop series is open for all UCSF students to volunteer and is held monthly, starting in winter quarter and ending in the spring quarter.