California Preparedness Drive Uses ‘Ground Game’ in At-Risk Communities

The California For All Emergency Preparedness Campaign will infuse $50 million into targeted regions and communities and expand preparedness programs including Citizens Emergency Response Teams and Listos.

by Jim McKay / April 19, 2019

An emergency preparedness campaign by California Volunteers and the California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services (Cal OES) will invest $50 million in a “ground game” aimed at vulnerable California communities.

The stated goal of the California For All Emergency Preparedness Campaign is to “bolster local resiliency and connect 1 million diverse and vulnerable Californian’s to culturally and linguistically competent support.”

The campaign, announce by Gov. Gavin Newsom in March, has identified six counties — two in the north, two in the central and two in the southern part of the state — as the initial group to begin receiving grants. The remaining 52 counties will compete for the rest of the resources. The initial six counties are Shasta, lake, Fresno, Tulare, Riverside and San Bernardino.

The group was chosen based on factors like poverty rates, and the numbers of non-English speaking residents, seniors and people with disabilities.

Karen Baker, California’s chief service officer and the lead at California Volunteers, said the campaign examined data collected from the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (Cal FIRE) and Cal OES that featured communities at high risk of flood, fire and earthquake and overlapped that with county data on vulnerable populations. The data that overlapped helped point to which communities to target first.

“The objective of this campaign is to engage a minimum of a million Californians into emergency preparedness training, and also having them involved in reviewing and understanding their response and recovery plans so they can be truly ready in such a high-risk state as California,” Baker said.

The campaign will target organizations, such as nonprofits that represent and work with vulnerable populations and provide these organizations the opportunity to get the training and materials and information they need to then be able to inform the emergency managers in their counties of the community’s needs and interests and help inform how response and recovery is managed.

“What we think is refreshing about it is that it’s just a people-centered approach,” Baker said. “Getting down and giving grants to nonprofits that work a county footprint and saying, ‘OK, it goes to the United Way in Lake County.’ That entity will then give subgrants to other nonprofits that represent vulnerable populations in that given county.”

The campaign seeks to beef up the Citizens Emergency Response Teams (CERT) and Listos programs by providing the resources that have been lacking and by expanding both. Listos is a preparedness program that can be tailored to Spanish-speaking families.

CERT involves 20 hours of training and Listos is an eight-hour training program. The campaign will expand CERT into five languages — Armenian, Chinese, Vietnamese, Korean and Tagalog. The goal for Listos is to expand from 30 communities to 60.

The grants will help with the necessary background checks, insurance and training materials. “We’ll be securing lead trainers from these communities to ensure the content penetrates the community,” Baker said. “Another thing that’s been missing is that CERT didn’t have a mechanism for paying for the insurance they need to do preparedness training.”

Baker said community members have different appetites for the amount of training they want to invest in. Some just want to protect their families and others become interested in helping the community during disaster response.

The campaign will also create a one-hour curriculum for those with little time or appetite for training. The curriculum will be composed of content that can be shared after church, at Starbucks or any other casual situation.

Baker said preparedness, in the past, has mostly been limited to the privileged and this is an effort to extend it to vulnerable communities.

“It’s basically saying, people in the community really need to own preparedness just as vibrantly as emergency managers and first responders,” Baker said. “It has to be owned by people on the ground in our communities and has to be presented in a way that is culturally and linguistically appropriate and relevant.”

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