BERKELEY -- The damage inflicted on Vallejo and Napa by the 6.1-magnitude earthquake Aug. 24 has officials around the region taking the opportunity to stress the need for public readiness in an emergency.
Berkeley, which has already devoted substantial resources to prepare for the next natural or man-made disaster, has now taken a further step by appointing Timothy Burroughs as its first chief resilience officer, a new position intended to establish a well-rounded preparedness strategy.
Burroughs, previously the city's climate action coordinator for seven years, will first develop and oversee the implementation of a strategy for coordinating government and social agencies and leaders to prepare the city to withstand acute shocks such as earthquakes and wildfires, as well as slower-moving issues such as sea-level rise and drought.
The strategy will add to Berkeley's completed programs to seismically upgrade buildings, increase neighborhood preparedness and cohesiveness, upgrade stormwater infrastructure and plan for the effects of climate change.
"My goal is to advance efforts that enable our community -- especially the most vulnerable in our community -- to be better prepared for and to bounce back from the acute shocks and chronic stresses that come our way," Burroughs said. "As residents of Berkeley and the Bay Area, we know what many of these shocks and stresses are."
The new position was created when Berkeley was selected as one of the first group of 32 network cities in the 100 Resilient Cities (100RC), an organization pioneered and funded by the Rockefeller Foundation, and dedicated to helping cities "build resilience to the physical, social and economic threats" that have become part of the 21st century.
Berkeley was chosen from among an international pool of 400 applicants in part because of its leadership on related issues.
"We were told that Berkeley had been selected because we had made so much progress on other efforts, such as our Climate Action Plan, our Local Hazard Mitigation Plan and our Downtown Action Plan," said Matthai Chakko, assistant to the city manager. "All of these are things the city has put into place and has made significant progress on and these all help build a more resilient city."
Burroughs is already familiar with such efforts, having played a role in creating and implementing the city's Climate Action Plan and contributing to the Local Hazard Mitigation and Downtown Area plans.
Burroughs identifies the continual upgrade of the city's infrastructure and community-serving facilities as a fundamental component of his work, but says resilience goes beyond those efforts.
"One of the benefits of working in a community like Berkeley is the high degree of community engagement," he said. "Resilience rests on people having connections to friends, family and neighbors that can help when disaster occurs, and being engaged and thoughtful about their readiness for a range of potential shocks and stresses."
He said engagement includes providing "a diverse set of opportunities for residents and business-owners to provide input on how to advance resilience in our community and to learn more about existing services designed to help."
Along with the new position, 100RC will fund half the salary of an associate civil engineer to work on the resilience of Berkeley's built environment.
It will also provide personnel and technical support and allow the city to tap into the resources of a number of private, public and nongovernmental organizations working with the program.
Oakland and San Francisco have also been chosen for the resilient cities program, making this area a test kitchen for collaboration and coordination of their strategies.
"This is the only part of the world where three cities were selected in the same region, and part of what 100RC wanted was collaboration between these three cities to see how they could figure out ways to work together," Chakko said.
"Because disasters do not stop at city boundaries and collaboration is a key part of responding to disasters whether they be natural or man-made."
Registration is now open for the Citywide Emergency Exercise on Oct. 18, open to all community members. All levels of experience are welcome and participants will receive a handbook containing disaster exercises, directions and objectives timed at several minutes up to two hours. No previous CERT training is required. To register or get more details visit www.cityofberkeley.info/prepare/