Community Preparedness

Community Preparedness in Sonoma County

Sonoma County’s diverse population, varied topography, and unique culture shows itself in the way residents organize to prepare their communities for disaster. The county has a number of different organization types and missions, all neighborhood based, run by neighbors, for neighbors. One lesson learned in the 2017 fires was the incredible value networks of people offer each other for life safety, resilience, and social support. Since the fires, more groups have formed and more connections have been made. The Sonoma County Department of Emergency Management recognizes this tremendous resource and benefit to the county and is working to foster and support this trend in a variety of ways.

Citizens Organized to Prepare for Emergencies (COPE)


Artwork by
Northern Sonoma County COPE

The mission of COPE is to help residents, families, and visitors to prepare, respond and recover from emergencies. COPE is a grassroots effort built upon the concept of “neighbor helping neighbor” engaging communities in emergency preparedness education, advocacy and planning. COPE fosters community preparedness in coordination with public safety agencies, non-profits, and non-governmental agencies.

The COPE program was originated by citizens of Santa Rosa, living in the Oakmont area, with support from the City of Santa Rosa Fire Department and the American Red Cross. Sue Hattendorf and Al Thomas worked with their neighbors to prepare for emergencies and over time enlisted participation from 2/3 of the Oakmont residents. From this collaborative grassroots design the COPE program has grown to include neighborhoods all over Sonoma County.

COPE in Sonoma County

Map Your Neighborhood (MYN)

The Map Your Neighborhood program guides neighbors through simple steps to help enhance preparedness for an emergency. These steps will help to quickly and safely take actions that can minimize damage and protect lives. It is designed to improve disaster readiness at the neighborhood level, 15-20 homes or a defined area that can be canvas in 1 hour.

It teaches neighbors to rely on each other during the hours or days before fire, medical, police or utility responders arrive. A wonderful benefit of the Map Your Neighborhood program is that it’s a great way to get to know or reconnect with your neighbors. Neighbors working together and learning how to protect your families, friends and property.

Learn more about MYN:

Neighborhood Groups & Block Captains

Neighborhood Groups can be similar to those groups discussed above. These groups are a collaboration of neighbors working together to help each other become more prepared. These groups learn about each member in their community and how they can assist others and be assisted through pooling of resources and skills. For example, one group, an offshoot of the West End Neighborhood Prep Team, finds its roots in the West End Neighborhood Association that was created in the 1980’s to represent their community.

After the 2017 fires, the County Supervisors in the fire affected areas (Districts 1, 3 and 4) organized Block Captains for residents who lost their homes. Each Block Captain is a leader in their neighborhood, and attends regular meetings with County Staff and guest speakers, and disseminates information to their neighbors. There are also a few groups that sprung up independent of the County in fire affected areas. Neighbors have continued to gather and assist each other in preparedness efforts to be ready if another disaster should strike.

Local Neighborhood Groups and Block Captains

Fire Safe Council

Fire Safe Councils are grassroots, community-led organizations that mobilize residents to protect their homes, communities, and environments from catastrophic wildfire.

A local Fire Safe Council is often sparked by a catalyst – perhaps a recent fire or a group of neighbors eager to spread a fire-safe message – then embraced by the community, which turns that initial interest into a committed group that finds ways to empower the residents to do their part to make the community safer. Sonoma County has a number of Fire Safe Councils working to mitigate fire hazards in their area as well as prepare for other potential disasters.

Local Fire Safe Councils

Community Emergency Response Teams (CERT)

The Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) program educates volunteers about disaster preparedness for the hazards that may impact their area and trains them in basic disaster response skills, such as fire safety, light search and rescue, team organization, and disaster medical operations.

CERT offers a consistent, nationwide approach to volunteer training and organization that professional responders can rely on during disaster situations, which allows them to focus on more complex tasks. Through CERT, the capabilities to prepare for, respond to and recover from disasters is built and enhanced.

Local CERT Programs

Other suggestions

  • Create a Neighborhood page on Facebook or Nextdoor; invite your neighbors to join
  • Create an address list with names an phone numbers to share with your neighbors
  • Meet and greet, get to know your neighbors
  • List skills you and your neighbors have (first aid, firefighter, etc.)
  • List tools and other resources you or your neighbors have available (heavy equipment, chainsaws, generators, pools, etc.)