Public Comment

Practice Disaster Preparedness 

By Norine Smith, Lynn Zummo and Charlotte Nolan 
Thursday February 25, 2010 - 09:00:00 AM

If you are not yet ready to care for yourself and your family in a disaster, and if your neighborhood is not yet prepared, it is time to start! If you and your neighbors are at some level of readiness, it is time to update and add to what you have already done: get more supplies, practice your family contact plans/drills and meet with your neighbors to initiate or improve preparations. We are establishing April 24, 2010, as “Let’s Do Something Day” for you, your household and your neighborhood to get better prepared. (See details later in this article regarding plans for that date.)  

To assist Berkeley neighborhoods in becoming better able to mount a disaster response, the Berkeley Disaster Preparedness Neighborhood Network (aka the “Network”) was created in January 2009. The Network was established for organized and unorganized neighborhoods to work together to coordinate efforts, assist each other, develop joint responses (such as group purchasing of supplies, developing workable communication systems) and work with the city. The overall goal was, and is, to ensure that all of us are better prepared to handle a disaster when—not if—it happens.  

The Network meets six times a year as a whole, with committees meeting as needed. Meeting attendees represent many areas of the city, and we welcome all new participants at each meeting. We have five active committees doing work that will benefit all of us. Over the next year or two we are planning to become a 501(c)3 nonprofit corporation so that we will be in a position to apply for and receive grant funding. You can follow our progress and get information about our activities and meetings by visiting our website at and emailing us at info@bdpnetwork. org. We also urge you to keep track of what is happening with city of Berkeley Disaster Preparedness by visiting the city website (; choose “Emergency Preparedness” from the list on the left. Here you can check for CERT classes on Disaster First Aid, Light Search and Rescue, and Fire Suppression, as well as get information on other topics at the GetReadyBerkeley section.  

The upcoming spring season brings new energy, more daylight and better weather—a good time to hold a meeting or a block party in your neighborhood. It is also a good time to hold a neighborhood drill, to practice what you would do in your area when a disaster—most likely an earthquake—strikes. To learn more about conducting a disaster preparedness drill in your neighborhood, come to the next Network meeting on Thurs., March 11, 2010, at 6:30 p.m at the Berkeley Unitarian Fellowship, corner of Cedar and Bonita. Pre-paring your neighborhood by practicing emergency response techniques is the main agenda item. There will also be an opportunity to interact with other neighborhood representatives, ask questions and learn about useful resources. The meeting is a potluck, so, if you are so inclined, bring a modest contribution and enjoy!  

We know it is hard to get started with disaster preparedness with the high demands of daily life and the scariness of thinking about such an event, yet everyone needs to start somewhere! In support of that idea, the Network is sponsoring a “Let's Do Something Day” on April 24, 2010 from 9 a.m. to noon in coordination with the City of Oakland's more organized City-wide drill scheduled at that same time.  

We are asking that all of you do something that day to prepare yourself, your family, your neighborhood to respond to an earthquake. It does not need to be extensive—although it can be if so desired—but get started with some kind of progress toward better preparedness.  

So....what can you do as an individual or household?  

- Discuss a plan for how to communicate or work together within your household during a disaster  

- Establish an out-of-the-area, preferably an out-of-state, contact person who can report your situation to others during a disaster  

- Start a household supply list or buy some additional supplies for dealing with a disaster  

- Check into CERT or first aid classes that are available for you to take  

What can we as a block or neighborhood do on this day to better prepare ourselves?  

- Call a group meeting and ask attendees to start thinking about disaster preparedness OR collaborate with your neighbors to start a group if you don't already have one  

- Re-energize your block group by updating your neighborhood emergency contact list or starting one  

- Start a neighborhood cache of needed neighborhood supplies or inventory what you have already and make sure everything is up to date and working  

- Practice using supplies you have in the group cache: turn on the generator, check the flashlights, practice with the walkie-talkies  

- Have a practice drill to test neighborhood response to a disaster or inventory which people on your block have special skills useful in a disaster (medical training, CPR, search and rescue work) 

- Run a scalable drill based on the Oakland drill materials  

If you wish to follow some of the drill scenarios that Oakland will be going by that day, check the Oakland CORE website at, or you can go into Oakland and help as a volunteer.  

We greatly regret the loss of the print edition of the Daily Planet and thank them for assisting the Network in getting started by printing our commentary articles. Your print presence will be missed! 


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