Public Comment

Taking Disaster Preparedness to The Next Level

By Norine Smith, Charlotte Nolan and Lynn Zummo
Wednesday January 21, 2009 - 06:47:00 PM

The City of Berkeley has long taken a leadership role and committed substantial resources to creating strong community disaster response capabilities. Over 40 neighborhood Cache groups [groups that collect and store supplies for emergencies] have been certified and supplied and members trained by the City. Other such groups are organizing or wish to do so, and would benefit from assistance.  

At the present time there is no organization of all the Cache neighborhoods, nor any coordinated way to offer assistance to developing groups. The city is doing its part, and it’s now time for the Berkeley community to step up and do its part! It is time to create an organization that addresses issues of planning, coordination and communication among existing Cache groups and provides assistance to neighborhoods in the process of disaster preparation. There is a proposal to develop a Berkeley Cache Network (BCN) as a response to these needs. 

Towards the above ends, a meeting is being held from 6:30 to 9 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 29, at the Berkeley Fellowship of Unitarian Universalists at Cedar and Bonita streets. The primary purpose of the meeting is to determine if there is sufficient interest from Berkeley Cache groups to form a BCN, and if so, how to proceed in doing so. The another purpose is to determine interest and establish needs of those groups who wish to become better prepared to respond to a disaster and develop plans to address those needs. After a general presentation and a Q&A, the group will divide into discussion groups: one for Caches, one for partially organized, and one for the unorganized. A report back from each group to all will close the evening. Refreshments will be served. 

As it stands now, localized disasters can be dealt with by the city, appropriate neighborhood groups, and, if needed, mutual aid from other governmental and private groups. In an area-wide disaster, such as the large earthquake we are told to expect within the next 30 years, particularly on the Hayward Fault, such response would not be adequate. 

In a potentially catastrophic event, although Cache and organized groups could respond to their immediate neighborhoods, it is likely that response to the needs of the unorganized groups would fall upon those groups that are prepared. When the large number of people in Berkeley for school, shopping, or business is added in, needs would vastly multiply. Joint planning and cooperation by the multiple stakeholders could also help prepare for these greater eventualities. 

We are all keenly aware of how the response to Katrina was both delayed and inadequate because of lack of coordination, shared information, of people who knew of each other and were prepared to cooperate and respond. The additional problem of lack of stockpiling immediately needed resources magnified the disastrous results. 

Let the Berkeley community do their part to prepare! 


Norine Smith, Charlotte Nolan and Lynn Zummo are Berkeley residents.