Continuing California’s nation-leading work to help vulnerable Californians prepare for, respond to and recover from disasters, the California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services (CalOES) hosted a multi-day conference through Listos California to equip more than 90 community-based organizations with the resources and information needed to help protect communities from more frequent and severe disasters.
Listos California works through local partners who provide culturally and linguistically relevant information and resources to reach communities that haven’t traditionally benefited from such intention and attention. Many of those partners attended the conference where they were empowered to deliver culturally congruent education as well as connect and learn from each other’s work and experiences.
“We’ve seen the last few months have been really trying for our state,” said Diana Crofts-Pelayo, assistant director of Crisis Communication & Public Affairs at Cal OES. “We’ve seen natural disasters that we haven’t experienced in a very long time and so it’s really important for us to be able to come together, reflect on how those months went, what we can do better, and what we can do in the next few months.
Dayana Contreras, with the Catholic Charities Diocese of Fresno, spoke on the importance of being a Listos California member.
“I have been doing this work for over a year now and half way through the year I got to see real life disaster in Merced County, in Kings County. I got to drive through flooded streets, I got to see the devastation of what these families are going through and that just kicked on some sort of light inside of me,” Contreras said. “I know that although I probably spend the majority of the time in front of a computer, I know that my staff is out there doing real work that is saving people. And I constantly have to remind them of that – you’re out there and you’re giving information that can literally save somebody’s life. And so that’s what being a Listos partner means to me.”
Yumi Sera, Executive Director of the Office of Community Partnerships & Strategic Communications, stressed the importance of trusted messengers, and how vital the relationship is between community-based organizations and the people they work with.
“Sometimes community members don’t trust the state and so we really need to partner with those messengers on the ground who know our community, who know where they live, who know what they eat and really look to have the community in mind in the work that they do,” she said.
Meta, the parent company of Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp, has also partnered with Cal OES and Listos to provide disaster preparedness tools in times of disaster.
“Community organizations are in the front lines and they are these trusted voices across many communities in the state and at Facebook we understand the work that they do,” said Adán Chávez, who works in U.S. External Affairs for Meta. “We know that they are on the front lines and it’s them who is getting critical information out there, so at Facebook we’ve created all sorts of projects and tools from safety check to community help to local alerts and the idea really is to create this surround sound effect where people can find not just information but resources leading up to and after disasters.”
Listos California Program Manager Karen Navarro has her own story of resilience during an emergency, so she knows how important it is to teach communities how to be prepared.
“We live in an area that is vulnerable to many types of disasters and so being best prepared will help to first understand that process because usually when there’s an emergency, we’re in shock – what do we do?,” Navarro said. “And so it’s important to prepare ahead of time to be reliant on yourself for those first 72 hours. It’s extremely important that the conversations are had around the table with the family to best be prepared.”
The Listos California Program has hundreds of available materials that can be share with communities, for how to best prepare your home and your family for disasters.
“In California, we firmly believe that no matter where you live, the amount of money in your bank account shouldn’t determine whether you survive a disaster,” said Brian Ferguson, Deputy Director, Crisis Communication & Public Affairs at Cal OES. “And so having partners who work on the ground who are trusted messengers in their community helps us help Californians who may otherwise not trust government, to get the word out early, to help people be a little bit more prepared in a culturally and linguistically appropriate manner.