Reflections of the Thomas Fire: How Grassroots and Government Officials Join Force to make Santa Barbara a safer place

On January 11th, Antioch University Santa Barbara’s MBA program hosted a presentation and panel discussion on community preparedness and recovering from natural disasters to consider questions and solutions on what can be done to be better prepared for the next natural disaster.

Last year in December, the Santa Barbara community experienced one of the most devastating fire and debris slides in its history. Over this past year, the MBA program reflected on the tools, processes, and best practices commonly used among residents, disaster relief organizations, and even government officials who have all systematically determined the roadmaps of actions and collaboration with other organizations in the community.

This firsthand experience from all the guests provided a necessary look into the reality of recovering from a natural disaster.

The evening began with keynote speaker Rob Lewin, Emergency Operations Director for Santa Barbara County’s Office of Emergency Management. He recalled experiences of the catastrophic twin disasters, including evacuations, emergency alerts, and hazards, among other topics.

“We continue to prepare the community for more evacuations,” Lewin said. “The future is becoming clear for first responders and emergency managers — we are experiencing disasters, fire, flood … power outages, and debris flows with a frequency we are not prepared for. Organizationally, we need to change our paradigm.”

The following panel discussion featured Stephanie Kaster, construction project manager at Casa Dorinda, along with Fernando Moreno, a representative with Heavenly Worth Home Health, Rose Levy with Direct Relief and Alyson Warner, program developer with the Acorn Project.

The aim is to take this information and discuss what works for the community, what we can improve on individually, and in our neighborhoods and community at large, as well as what goals we can strive for to mitigate the worst of the damage for our local population.

The event was covered by the media. Read the full Noozhawk article here.