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California Campaign for Preparedness Evolves with Coronavirus

A reorganized Listos California campaign for preparing the state’s vulnerable populations for disasters had to adjust with technology and a newer approach as the state faces wildfires and other potential disasters.

by Jim McKay / June 26, 2020

In the Listos California Campaign for preparedness, the Governor’s Office of Emergency Services (Cal OES) set out to reach a million within the state with preparedness training and messages. Those numbers will be released by the governor’s office next week.

But as that campaign was underway, the coronavirus pandemic hit, forcing a reorganization and creating opportunity. In March, the approach to training and preparedness — typically training in small groups such as a social club or a church group — transitioned online.

“Facebook live, Zoom trainings and other really creative methods that people have come out with to really reach the community members,” said Karen Baker, Listos California co-chair.

And with the state mired in a pandemic, the attentiveness of the public is high. “One of the interesting things that we learned from some of the data in research that we’ve done [is] the single thing that will influence people to take steps for preparedness is if they experience a disaster,” Baker said. “We’re finding that both the appetite and interest in getting ready for other disasters has really increased.”

With the public in tune, the campaign reaffirmed the five keys to preparedness.

“First of all,” Baker said, “We need to make sure everyone has their alert, such as a county alert.” The public can go to to learn where to become informed.

The second step is to protect your family by having a plan. “That second one is that family disasters plan as it often is called,” Baker said. “You need to plan how to connect with your kids or husband who might be at a different location.” This includes having a contact number that’s out of the immediate area in case family members can’t be located locally.

Step three is having a go bag and with the coronavirus, that includes things like extra masks. But most importantly, the bag should include critical documents like your identification, insurance papers, perhaps some cash and a map of the area and evacuation routes.

“A lot of people have become so dependent on their phones, they have potentially even forgotten the routes, especially with the effect of the disaster like a wildfire,” Baker said. “We’re recommending you have a printed map with different routes so you don’t have to be thinking about it.”

The go bag should also include medication lists and maybe a portable radio and flashlight and be packed and ready to go within 10 minutes notice.

The fourth step is having a stay box that includes basics, such as water and food that doesn’t need to be heated for at least three days. “Build up the stay box gradually with water, food that will not spoil or require cooking and set aside some plastic bags with ties and a bucket that you can use for a toilet,” Baker said.

The fifth step is educating family members and neighbors about what to do in different disaster scenarios.

Technology was a big factor in the reorganization. The campaign entered all the training and education information—everyone who has been trained and received preparedness data — into a data management system. Those who completed training are able to obtain a digital badge certifying that they have been trained in preparedness.


The Listos campaign has also built hazard maps for every county in the state to understand where vulnerable populations lie in relation to potential hazards. They’ve also translated their preparedness curriculum into six languages.

And the campaign has built deeper ties to nonprofit organizations who have direct relationships to the populations that need to be reached.

 “In the past what the state would do is create a wonderful preparedness campaign but it would not reach into those trusted brokers,” Baker said. “Those nonprofits and faith-based entities that would be able to say, ‘Hey, I can get a group of my community to listen because I’m the one they trust.’”


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