BERKELEY, Calif. -- Giving new meaning to an old saying, "A stitch in time saves nine," the City of Berkeley recently unveiled a new program intended to save lives during a disaster. With community business partners at their side, city officials joined with Federal Emergency Management Agency representatives to welcome the Project Impact initiative to Berkeley. Project Impact is an initiative that challenges communities throughout the nation to undertake actions that protect families, businesses and communities by reducing the effects of natural disasters.
Berkeley was designated a Project Impact community last December and an official signing ceremony was held at City Hall, July 7. The designation also provides for a $300,000 seed grant to help launch activities that will have a lasting impact throughout the Berkeley community.
City Manager Jim Keene said, "Every so often you'll hear folks say, 'There's something in the air; it feels like earthquake weather! But it's not like in Florida where you get three-days warning to board up windows before the hurricane. Here, an earthquake can happen at any time."
"Berkeley has faced a number of natural disasters in the past, and they have reacted to these risks by creating and participating in a number of proactive measures," said Martha Whetstone, Regional Director of FEMA Region IX in San Francisco. Berkeley's unprecedented commitment has been demonstrated in a number of ways, including earthquake seismic retrofitting, programs to reduce damages due to earthquakes, wildfires and mudslides, and their unique partnership with the University of California, Berkeley that serves as a model of how communities and educational institutions can work together to become disaster resistant."
The goal of Project Impact is to reduce the personal and economic costs of disasters by bringing together community leaders, citizens and businesses to prepare for and protect themselves against the ravages of nature. Kevin Clark, regional coordinator for Project Impact, noted, "For every dollar spent in prevention, $2 are saved in repairs.
Following the signing ceremony, participants were given a tour of Berkeley High School's chemistry and computer labs where youth volunteers were in the process of making earthquake safety improvements. Potentially caustic chemicals were stored in disaster-resistant locations, cabinets fitted with door latch devices and computers secured with tie-down straps. The youth volunteers methodically accomplished many risk-reducing prevention activities throughout the day.
Berkeley joins other Project Impact communities in California to include San Bernardino and Napa counties, the City and County of Santa Barbara and the neighboring City of Oakland.