The flood- and wildfire-prone city of Santa Barbara, California sits between mountains and ocean, along an earthquake fault, with a single major highway connecting it to cities north and south.
In 2005, a massive mudslide closed this highway to the south, cutting the region off from significant resources.
Of course we cannot prevent many disasters, but research has shown that a one-dollar investment in preparedness is equal to seven dollars in post-disaster reaction. As the Orfalea Fund has always prioritized prevention over intervention, we conducted further research on disaster readiness.
This led to a unique public/private partnership among the Orfalea Fund, global consulting firm James Lee Witt Associates, and the Santa Barbara County Office of Emergency Management. Changing a culture of entrenched bureaucracies and competing interests to one of increased effectiveness and efficiency would require, after all, the cultivation of strong relationships and organizational partnerships at the deepest levels: a system-wide commitment of all parties to the common good.
Today, more than 45 organizations and community leaders meet regularly under the County’s Aware & Prepare Initiative to identify priorities, implement programs, and stay ready.