Magazine article Stanford Social Innovation Review

Strengthening Santa Barbara County's Disaster Resilience

Magazine article Stanford Social Innovation Review

Strengthening Santa Barbara County's Disaster Resilience

Article excerpt

In August 2005, the United States witnessed one of the most devastating and costly natural disasters in its history when Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast. First responders, volunteers, nonprofit service providers, businesses, and philanthropists rushed to the aid of the affected communities.

In Santa Barbara County, The Orfalea Fund asked the question, "If a disaster of that magnitude were to happen here, are we prepared?" A civil grand jury investigation and comprehensive needs assessment concluded that the answer was no. Although our community has tremendous vulnerability to natural disasters such as wildfires and earthquakes, the individuals and organizations responsible for responding to and recovering from those disasters had a long way to go toward working together in a systematic and coordinated manner.

To change this, the fund, the global consulting firm James Lee Witt Associates, and the Santa Barbara County Office of Emergency Management developed the Aware & Prepare Initiative. Launched in 2008 with the support of a collaborative of local foundations, the public-private partnership committed to enhancing capacity of government agencies and nonprofit organizations to prepare for, respond to, and recover from disasters. Grants were soon distributed to support resource acquisition, emergency and business continuity planning, emergency communication systems, and public education programs. Most important, mechanisms were put in place through which government agencies and nonprofit organizations can share information and collaborate on countywide projects. …

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