Planning Ahead Does a Community Good

After months of planning, recruiting participants, and collaborating with partners, the day had finally arrived. Sunday, June 23 started out looking very promising, with the temperature approaching 72 degrees. My co-worker Aiko-Sophie and I, along with our supportive husbands, met the set-up crew to position 23 tents, 40 tables, and 60 chairs, and specified the final layout for each table, including where the seven emergency vehicles and mobile units would go. We were ready for the Federation’s first free Emergency Preparedness Fair.

The Fair had not even started, but I felt strengthened by this show of collaborative effort and the shared sense of purpose.

Carol Appel

Carol, center, at the Fair

From companion canines to food trucks, to a bounce house for kids—there was something for everyone. An impressive list of 33 first responders*, nonprofit organizations, and businesses greeted each other with the ease of professionals who had done this many times before. All were at the ready to share information and resources on how to be properly equipped for the fire season, an emergency, or a disaster.

Now, the question was: would people show up? And the answer was a resounding yes. 220 attendees from throughout the county participated. All ages were present—families, individuals, young children, seniors, and from different backgrounds—Jewish and non-Jewish attendees, English and Spanish speaking. Four Sonoma County rabbis and their families came to cheer us on.

Rabbi Dovid and his children

Being prepared for the worst universally benefits everybody in a community.

Some attendees not only understood the need to be ready but had experienced past emergencies and evacuations first-hand. Fire Marshall Paul Lowenthal, a wildfire survivor himself, appreciated the earnest questions posed throughout the day. One attendee made a hasty beeline to the American Heart Association tent to learn CPR skills, as her small child had recently choked on a candy. A fire survivor, who has been living in FEMA housing at the fairgrounds, spoke with United Policy Holders about her ongoing needs. Many more incidents like these were expressed to us throughout our time there.

Representatives from the American Red Cross speak with Fair attendees

Representatives from three of our elected officials were present including: Senator Bill Dodd, Assemblymember Marc Levine, and there was even a surprise visit by Congressman Mike Thompson, who chatted amiably with each participant. His outreach underscored our goals to nurture positive relationships between local service providers and the community.

There have been many learnings since the wildfires.

It takes everyone’s support to recover from a disaster, during a crisis, after the fact, and over the long haul. Everyone who showed up today exemplified the true meaning of what it means to be an inclusive community, and I was immensely proud to be part of that effort.

Kids posing with representatives from CAL FIRE

Since the wildfires broke out in October 2017, the Federation has supported the response and recovery efforts in the North Bay by mobilizing volunteers, facilitating in-kind donations for fire survivors, and granting over $1.1 million to Jewish and non-sectarian organizations in the region. This Fair was organized with the knowledge that being prepared has been a proven strategy to help communities move through recovery following a disaster. Planning not only helps ensure a more effective response to future emergencies, but it also helps alleviate the effects of trauma, replacing feelings of distress with confidence.

*Partial list of first responders and participants:
Sonoma County Animal Services * Ready Marin * American Heart Association * Santa Rosa Fire Dept * American Red Cross * Sonoma County Sheriff * COPE * Files For Life * CHP * PG&E * Canine Companions * Search and Rescue * CAL FIRE * Sonoma County Horse Council * IsraAID * Salvation Army * Nuestra Comunidad * Catholic Charities * County of Sonoma Human Services Department * Jewish Community Free Clinic * Jewish Family & Children's Services * ROC Sonoma County Resource Center * Assemblymember Marc Levine * Offices of Senator Bill Dodd and Congressman Mike Thompson * Boy Scout Troop 135 * Friedman's Home Improvement * ServPro * Casablanca Moroccan & Mediterranean * Trader Jim's Floats

Categories: Community


June 27, 2019


Carol Appel