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San Mateo County Gives Residents Options and Opportunities to Get Prepared

Case Story

JoAnn Scordino, a Certified Emergency Manager with San Mateo County, stressed that there are many different ways to effectively involve residents in emergency preparedness efforts. “As emergency managers, we can get set in our thinking that residents should do something specific like CERT (Community Emergency Response Team) training, but everyone may not initially be ready for this level of involvement,” she said. (It is a 20 hour class.) “The truth is there is something for everyone to do, and we need to create different ways for different people to get involved,” added Scordino.

With this in mind, the county has developed a “preparedness pyramid” with different levels of involvement available to residents interested in emergency preparedness. For those who want basic information, a disaster preparedness video, Get Ready San Mateo County, is available for viewing on public television, DVD and YouTube, and it is being translated into languages spoken by immigrants in the community. For those who want to get more involved and connect with neighbors around emergency planning, there is the opportunity to form neighborhood block groups. These groups can be a way to attract more residents to enroll in CERT training. Individuals with CERT training are encouraged to share their knowledge with neighbors by hosting an introductory level “Get Ready” presentation. “Get Ready” meetings provide an opportunity for neighbors to get to know each other better and identify those who may have special needs (such as disabled people, elderly residents or pets). They also offer the added benefit of improving neighborhood crime awareness and prevention.

Scordino emphasized the importance of keeping volunteers with an interest in emergency preparedness engaged, trained and ready by providing leadership opportunities and ongoing ways to be involved. “The bottom line is to stay flexible and open in our thinking and look for opportunities to bring people together. It’s important to not use an all ‘doom and gloom’ approach. We need to look in a positive way at how we can flex our community muscle in an emergency situation,” she said. “We know emergency responders can’t do everything for everyone in a disaster, so it’s important to pool our resources, put the best information out there in a user-friendly way that is understandable to our residents, and bring people together.”

For more information, contact JoAnn Scordino, San Mateo County CERT Coordinator, at 650-599-1709 or

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