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‘California Roadmap’ Aims to Develop Community Resiliency

The roadmap outlines investment in whole community preparedness and how those investments can help get the nonprofit, faith-based, public and private sectors to collaborate better to develop resilient communities.

by Jim McKay / July 25, 2019

As part of its effort to improve disaster resilience and recovery, California is seeking to put more resources at the disposal of local nonprofits and faith-based organizations and the private sector to develop a whole-community-based approach to disaster preparedness.

The “California Roadmap” is a result of Gov. Gavin Newsom’s push to build community resilience within the state in the face of wildfires, earthquakes, drought and flood.

The roadmap includes six strategies noted in a report released by California Volunteers, that offer guidelines to build resilience by maximizing partnerships with the private sector, nonprofits and faith-based organizations, as well as developing resources and using them for communitywide resilience.

“You have to leverage nonprofit, faith-based, private-sector resources in hopefully a more thoughtful and engaged way,” said Karen Baker, California’s chief service officer. “It’s not that we haven’t wanted to do this as a community, it’s just that often there’s been a lack of resources available to do so.”

That funding deficit got a boost recently by the public-sector investment of $50 million — the California For All Emergency Preparedness Campaign — that invests in individual community preparedness across the state.

The report is based on discussions with community leaders in the nonprofit, faith-based, public and private sectors who understand what their community’s needs are and how they can be more resilient to disasters.

Baker said she hopes the report offers some new understandings of developing a “fuller picture” that helps the emergency management community better understand the roles of government versus nonprofits and how volunteers and donations come into play.

“I know emergency managers are varied,” she said. “There are those who have a passion for understanding diverse and vulnerable communities and populations, and they’re very attuned to exactly how they should do outreach, so they’re prepared and make sure their plans really reflect their needs in response and recovery.”

She also said there are those who may not have the resources or wherewithal to do that sort of outreach, and this report is a good guide in that regard, “making sure that there are private resources, that there is cross-sector coordination and that the whole community has the capacity to act,” Baker said.

She said encouraging communities to develop National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (VOAD) groups that can respond quickly to disasters is an example of what the report is encouraging. “Butte County [where the aftermath of disastrous Camp Fire is still being felt] is an example of one that didn’t have an active VOAD. That impacts the ability of all disaster players in an incident to come together much more quickly and thoughtfully when disaster strikes,” Baker said.

One of the six strategies in the report is to strengthen the state’s coordination role to assist local communities. That essentially speaks to getting resources in place in the community to create resilience and facilitate response and recovery.

“What’s complicated here is the public has to have an easy way to plug in to make a difference after a disaster,” Baker said. “It’s part of how they deal with their own trauma. But what we need to understand is that resources need to be in place so that training can take place to prepare, so that everyone understands their role in working together.”

Another strategy is to Democratize disaster learning and resilience.

This goes to developing a way to share lessons learned between different organizations and entities. For instance, nonprofits that help during response and recovery learn valuable lessons but hang onto those. The strategy here is to develop a place where other organizations can get to the data of lessons learned.

“Natural disasters increasingly threaten California’s safety and prosperity, most painfully affecting those who are already struggling economically,” said Don Howard, president and CEO of the James Irvine Foundation, which helped create the roadmap, said in a statement. “Philanthropy is a partner in building resilient communities, including by investing in research, data and creative solutions for responding to and preventing future disasters.”


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