NC

COMMUNITY — Alma Bowen, right, talks to a community member about Nuestra Comunidad during Friday Night Live on Aug. 30.

New program from Nuestra Comunidad is on a mission to help the city prepare for disaster before one hits

A new nonprofit is heading to Cloverdale neighborhoods with the goal of helping residents be prepared in case of disaster. Be Prepared Cloverdale is the pilot program through Nuestra Comunidad (NC), a nonprofit that began in February 2018 and was made official in November.

NC was created as a result of founder Alma Bowen’s experience as a 911 dispatcher during the 2017 wildfires.

“What I saw through the night of the fires and the week after was a community that just wasn’t prepared,” Bowen said. “I decided to become a nonprofit to go out into the community and do outreach and 911 awareness and disaster preparedness. The conversation was more about building a culture of preparedness and ‘how do we do that?’ The conversation led us to talking about how you have to be strategic and it has to be done with a purpose. You can’t just hope that there’s enough effort out there — it’s like throwing a bunch of stuff against a wall and hoping that some of it sticks. We wanted to come together and form a strategic approach to disaster preparedness.”

Cloverdale is serving as the pilot location for Bowen’s community-oriented project, which will work to increase preparedness by targeting neighborhoods in Cloverdale that want to have an active role in being disaster ready. In the coming weeks, Bowen said she’ll be knocking on doors and being at community events to do outreach.

As she explained it, NC’s “strategic approach” is three-pronged: getting individual households prepared, building community within neighborhoods and hosting community-wide preparedness events.

“After we educate them on components of getting themselves and their family prepared and we engage communities where they’re working together in their neighborhoods, then that starts that movement where it’s a more prepared culture,” Bowen said.

There are four elements to getting people prepared, Bowen said: having a plan, making a kit, being informed and getting involved.

Be Prepared Cloverdale will begin with a set of eight workshops (dates to be determined) around town that will put all of the necessary information in one place — Bowen said that attendees will get handouts and help when it comes to figuring out how to create communication plans, put together emergency kits, secure important documents and so on.

Bowen is spearheading the workshop sessions as well, and is getting prepared to do so by taking classes through FEMA. The workshops will all be presenting the same information, but will be held at varying times throughout September and October to allow community members to go to an event that fits their schedule.

“When people walk away it’s a whole community approach and it shows them the bigger picture, but it shows them the components to go back home and get themselves prepared,” she said.

Following the workshops, Bowen said that NC’s outreach will shift into being neighborhood-based. Through Be Prepared Cloverdale, the goal for now is to get four neighborhoods actively involved in preparedness strategies — looking at where their exits are in case of an emergency, creating contacts and building connections with the folks in their neighborhoods as a way of building stronger community bonds.

She sees the future of Be Prepared Cloverdale in hosting block parties where neighbors can share preparedness strategies and potentially win preparedness kits. The program will also be incorporating other disaster preparedness tactics, such as participating in this year’s Great ShakeOut, a worldwide earthquake drill in October.

When asked why she chose Cloverdale to pilot the effort, Bowen said that Cloverdale was the first city that seemed interested enough to act on the program.

“Cloverdale is a leader — they heard about it and they were on it,” Bowen said, referring to a presentation she gave with District Four County Supervisor James Gore in early July about the program.

At the council meeting following the presentation, the Cloverdale City Council agreed to partially fund the pilot program in congruence with funding from Gore’s office.

“I’ve had similar conversations with other town officials and although they show interest … they really don’t move forward with it,” she said.

“I think it’s a really good community because we have a mix of English and Spanish speakers and we have the city of Cloverdale, but it’s surrounded by county as well — it’s kind of the perfect mix to be able to look at a project like this,” she said.

All of the materials and workshops will be presented in both English and Spanish, Bowen said, which will ideally be able to target most members of the Cloverdale community.

“The ideal result is for awareness about preparedness, that it’s not a big scary topic and that it’s doable,” Bowen said. “I think that if we start looking at preparedness differently, that it’s not a bunch of freaks that are doomsdayers, it’s not the worst-case-scenario people, it’s a reality that we have to live in.”

Those who want to get involved can do so by searching “Be Prepared Cloverdale” on Facebook, or by emailing Bowen at nuestracomunidad707@yahoo.com. To find out more about Nuestra Comunidad, visit nc707.org.

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