In October 2019 we commemorated the 30th anniversary of the Loma Prieta Earthquake, an event that is indelibly etched in the memories of those who were in Santa Cruz in the fall of 1989. And when the shaking stopped residents were faced with the daunting task of recovery.

Many stories were shared throughout our county, some heartbreaking, some astounding and some inspirational. But through them all ran the common theme of community, of neighbor helping neighbor, of people reaching out to rescue, to rebuild and to work together to fix what could be fixed, to heal physical, emotional, and psychic wounds and find ways to move forward.

These are stories of community resilience, which can be described as the ability of a community to prepare and utilize resources to respond to, withstand and recover from natural disasters and other adverse situations. In Santa Cruz our threats include earthquake, floods, fire and tsunami, as well as a variety of human-caused disasters ranging from gun violence to cyber (computer/internet) attacks.

Fortunately, this spirit of cooperation still lives in our county, and there are many ways to foster it. Read on to learn how you can get involved in building our community’s resilience.

Get Connected!

From being prepared to shelter in place or evacuate to helping others, or getting help, being connected with people and resources is a major key to resilience. Remember, our firefighters, law enforcement officers and emergency responders, along with the County’s emergency services, work hard to keep us safe, but in a disaster, it might take a while for responders to reach you. Here are some tools and resources to help you and your neighbors be ready.

Map Your Neighborhood

Mr. Rogers always started his show with the song, “It’s A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood.” A beautiful day, when you and your family are safe and sound, is just the time to get to know your neighbors and learn more about folks you may only wave to when you walk the dog. You can create community when you get together to Map Your Neighborhood, a fun way to meet and connect, and develop a repository of contacts, skills and resources.

In a disaster your most immediate sources of help are the neighbors living around you. Map Your Neighborhood (MYN) connects individual preparedness with preparedness in your neighborhood. Participants learn who their neighbors are, who might need special assistance and who might have special skills or equipment to help in a disaster.

A Map Your Neighborhood program usually begins with a meeting of 10–20 neighbors who learn and work together. Here is what the meeting covers:

  • Learn the first 9 Steps to Take Immediately Following a Disaster to secure your home and protect your neighborhood.
  • Identify the Skills and Equipment Inventory each neighbor has that are useful in an effective disaster response.
  • Create a Neighborhood Map identifying the locations of natural gas and propane tanks for quick response if needed.
  • Create a Neighborhood Contact List that identifies those with specific needs such as the elderly, those with a disability, or homes where children may be alone during certain hours of the day.
  • Learn how to work together as a Team to evaluate your neighborhood after a disaster and take the necessary actions.

Click here to watch an introduction.

Click here for more information and resources, and to connect with Santa Cruz CERT for help to organize a Map Your Neighborhood meeting.

Create a Team With the Community Preparedness Toolkit

The Community Preparedness Toolkit provides step-by-step directions along with useful resources for making your community safer, more resilient and better prepared. The Toolkit, created by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), is designed to help you organize a group as a positive addition to an existing community-based organization, or to set up a well-organized independent group that fills a gap in the community.

Each project will be different to reflect the needs and character of the participants, but FEMA encourages you to incorporate the following elements in your project:

  • Create a team with your friends and neighbors to share the effort.
  • Set outcome-based goals and track your progress to those goals.
  • Celebrate your successes together.

Click here for a step-by-step guide, and links for valuable resources.

Join a Community Emergency Response Team (CERT)

The CERT Program teaches people to be prepared for hazards that may impact their area. CERT training, which is provided for free, covers basic emergency response skills, such as fire safety, light building search and rescue, team organization and disaster emergency medical operations. Participants gain decision-making, organizational, and practical skills to help family members, neighbors and associates when professional responders are not immediately available. While people will respond to others in need without the training, the goal of the CERT program is to help people do so effectively and efficiently without placing themselves in unnecessary danger.

CERT members also are encouraged to support emergency response agencies by taking an active role in emergency preparedness projects in their community. Learn more and get involved!

American Red Cross Training

The American Red Cross offers a wide variety of classroom and online training and certification, including First Aid, Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR), Automated External Defibrillators (AED), and Babysitting and Child Care. Click here to find class information.

Santa Cruz County Medical Reserve Corps (MRC)

The Santa Cruz County Medical Reserve Corps operates under the auspices of the Public Health Department of the County and is made up of medical professionals and non-medical personnel. Medical professionals include nurses, EMTs, paramedics, physicians, pharmacists, dentists, mental health workers and acupuncturists. Non-medical personnel are used according to their specialty or ability such as ham radio operator or security.

The MRC is a network of volunteers who want to donate their time and expertise to prepare for and respond to emergencies and promote healthy living throughout the year. MRC volunteers supplement existing emergency and public health resources.

What Volunteers Do:

  • Emergency response training
  • Participation in disaster exercises
  • Staffing of mass immunization/prophylaxis clinics
  • Triage and surge capacity management

Click here to learn more about the MRC and connect with volunteer opportunities.

These are just some of the ways you can be part of the resilience! Please use the information you find here, and other trustworthy resources and organizations, to be prepared to respond to, withstand, and recover from adverse situations with the spirit of cooperation and community that is the heart of Santa Cruz County.