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Neighborhood Liaisons Support Redwood City Emergency Preparedness

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Erica Spacher runs the innovative Neighborhood Liaisons program in Redwood City. Neighborhood Liaisons agree to meet and talk to a few of their neighbors, have them fill out contact sheets, and then help get some of these neighbors together to come up with and then work on a neighborhood project. It’s kind of like the traditional “block captain” concept, but with a self-starting, community-building angle. Spacher reports that emergency preparation is the most requested training by these residents, and several such sessions are held each year. Once a year, a short basic disaster preparation class is taught to Neighborhood Liaisons, who then take the information back to others in their neighborhood.

The city offers up to $300 for expense reimbursement to groups that hold neighborhood events, as long as they invite the Fire Department to attend and inform residents about emergency preparation opportunities such as quarterly, “Are You Ready” preparedness classes. These classes lead in to the full 20-hour CERT training program for residents who want to learn more, and there are currently 150 CERT trained residents in the community. The Fire Department also conducts emergency preparedness trainings at local schools, businesses and retirement communities. The city is working to meet the challenge of involving the many residents who are more fluent in Spanish than English in these efforts by conducting some classes in Spanish.

Mike Mancusi, a CERT trained resident who now conducts “Are You Ready” classes in Redwood City, identified what he perceived to be one of the major challenges to effectively involving residents in disaster preparedness. He noted the cultural differences between the Fire Department, which sponsors trainings and which has a command and control structure, and most residents who volunteer, who work in a business or field where command and control is not the culture. Mancusi reports that a lot of effort has been made to get these two groups to work well together and understand each other. He suggests that Fire Departments can benefit from training on how to work effectively with volunteers, and that an organization such as the Red Cross that works extensively with volunteers might be able to help provide a useful example.

For more information, contact program coordinator Erica Spacher at 650-780-5905 or espacher@redwoodcity.org, or volunteer Mike Mancusi at mmancusi@batnet.com.

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