Berkeley has been designated as a Project Impact/Disaster Resistant Community since December and in May the city hired a coordinator for the project that’s to be formally launched Friday.
Carol Lopes, a Berkeley resident, is the new Project Impact Coordinator. Previously she was Executive Director of Collaborating Agencies Responding to Disaster, based in Oakland.
She said Oakland was the first city in California to be designated a Project Impact city by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
Berkeley Is recognized as a “model in proactive seismic preparedness,” by FEMA, she said, because of the city’s tax incentives for homeowners to upgrade their homes.
And additionally the city is recognized for passing the bond measures for seismic upgrades of the schools and major public buildings.
FEMA gave Berkeley a $300,000 grant for the project that Lopes said will allow the city to create a small staff to start building a collaborative process for disaster preparedness.
Although she said the project was “multi-hazard,” and would include responses to fires and chemical releases, the primary focus is mitigating the effects of an earthquake.
The city is taking the project to the public with formal document signing ceremonies beginning at 11 a.m. Friday in City Council Chambers.
The signers will be pledging to work together to identify risks in the community and they will provide resources and support and promotional material to reduce those risks.
The signers include IBM, Home Depot, Orchard Supply, The Berkeley Alliance, VISA-USA, Berkeley Rent Board and the Berkeley Chamber of Commerce. Government, neighborhood and community groups are other partners in the collaboration.
Following the signing and a luncheon, Lopes and officials and signatories will walk to Buildings G and H on the Berkeley High campus where they’ll get a demonstration illustrating how easy it is to anchor large objects and make them “quake-proof.”
This “mitigation project” will be the first of many that Lopes will coordinate in Berkeley to show homeowners how they can bolt, strap, brace or buckle furniture and appliances that could otherwise crash and cause harm.
At Berkeley High a work team headed by the Community Energy Service Corporation will be anchoring computers and other equipment. The nonprofit organization operates home repair programs and has been active in protecting homes from earthquake damage.
“We need to do first is create the processes for getting the community involved on setting the vision for what constitutes a disaster,” Lopes said.
In practice, she said she works with government and community-based organizations to bring volunteers with a variety of skills together.
“We train them in a few hours and we can do up to 20 homes in a day.” Lopes was referring to the plan to make showcase presentations of non-structural earthquake mitigation techniques to community groups.
She said teams are expected to make presentations at block parties and in public buildings like senior centers and recreation centers.
Later this month a series of public forums will begin to educate the community about Project Impact.