Public Comment

Twenty Years Later, Are You Ready? The ‘Network’ Can Help

By Norine Smith, Charlotte Nolan and Lynn Zummo
Thursday October 22, 2009 - 09:34:00 AM

Anniversaries bring remembrance and reflection, as does this one, the Loma Prieta earthquake 20 years later. Hopefully our reflections then, now, and the years in between, have led us to become as individually prepared as possible and to participate with our neighbors in setting up neighborhood disaster response capability. If this preparation has not been undertaken, it is long past time to do so. As you all know, the U.S. Geological Survey predictions say the Hayward Fault is due for a major shake, which further underscores the need to be prepared.  

The City of Berkeley has, within the limits of its resources and responsibilities, done its part in providing free training classes in first aid, search and rescue, and fire suppression, so that citizens are prepared. Forty caches of major items needed in a disaster response have been given to neighborhood groups who are already well-organized and prepared, and who have shown sustained commitment in developing a neighborhood response. These contributions are very important; however they are not even first or second steps households and neighborhoods need to take in preparing for a disaster.  

When the next earthquake occurs, or any other major disaster happens, we will become first responders in our neighborhoods—perhaps for a substantial amount of time. We will be undertaking jobs our city, fire, and medical services do now, until they can take over. We will have to do so whether we are prepared or not! Being prepared is the better option.  

With the above in mind, on Jan. 29, 2009, the Berkeley Disaster Prep Neighborhood Network—otherwise known as the Network—was established. Its mission is to coordinate the work of already organized groups, to assist groups wanting to, or those in the process of, organizing, and in some cases, helping those “fizzled” groups reestablish themselves. It is the Network’s long-term goal to have all Berkeley neighborhoods organized for disaster prep to the extent that they are willing and able to do so by the next major event. To that end, five additional meetings have taken place since our initial January meeting and we are taking action steps to spread the word about the Network and to provide the training and assistance needed for and by those who wish to participate.   

The next network meeting is on Nov. 5, starting at 6:30 p.m. at the Berkeley Fellowship of Unitarian Universalists, corner of Cedar and Bonita, in the main hall. We will be launching two programs and discussing two proposed programs. The first will be a mentoring program for organizing groups by individuals from established groups. The second is a group purchasing program for disaster supplies which will allow groups to order from one vendor, at a discount, what they would need for both individual household preparation and for neighborhood cache supplies. There will be a progress report on the plan to map neighborhood groups and overall organized disaster prep coverage in the city. We will also discuss the formation of a new committee dedicated to communications—FRS/GMRS two-way radios, ham and other amateur radios.   

The network has a Yahoo group at and a more developed website will be available by the end of October at By the end of January, we will be posting several documents to assist groups of all levels of organization in developing disaster prep efforts. The first is a detailed “organizing your neighborhood” handbook. The second will be site instructions to provide step-by-step guidance to anyone showing up at the group meeting place after a disaster on how to proceed in getting a response going. These instructions will include the functions to be performed and specific guidelines from the city’s CERT manual regarding how to do the tasks required. The third item will be a list of basic supplies/equipment groups need for a disaster at a neighborhood’s supply and gathering site.  

We are all used to depending on City of Berkeley services and resources in an emergency, and not being concerned about being ready, at least temporarily, to totally take care of ourselves. In a major disaster, the usual systems will not be able to operate as they normally do and we will be on our own. Be prepared—supply your own household, organize with your neighbors, take the free CERT classes offered by the city, check out the Network website, join the Yahoo group, and come to our meeting on Nov. 5.  

Finally, we extend our thanks for the generosity of the Berkeley Unitarian Fellowship in providing meeting space and other support to network efforts. 


Norine Smith, Charlotte Nolan and Lynn Zummo are with Berkeley Disaster Prep Neighborhood Network.