Two Berkeley residents practice using a two-way radio at August drill run by BDPNN. Photo: Dave Peattie

By Dave Peattie

When there is a major disaster in the Bay Area, help may take a long time to arrive, as the recent hurricane in New Orleans and earthquakes in Japan, Haiti, and Turkey have shown.

The Berkeley Disaster Preparedness Neighborhood Network (BDPNN), a nongovernmental organization, wants to help residents survive a disaster by being organized and prepared.

The BDPNN will hold a hands-on medical practice session Thursday November 17 with Barbara Morita, Emergency Preparedness Coordinator for the Alameda Health Consortium, and a member of the Disaster Medical Assistance Team (DMAT). It will take place at 6:30 pm, at the Berkeley Fellowship of Unitarian Universalists Hall (corner of Cedar and Bonita).

This training will focus on those medical interventions that will save lives in a disaster. Hands-on practice will include controlling bleeding, bandaging, treating for shock, splinting, burn care, and moving patients. The training is based on Morita’s DMAT experience responding to Hurricane Katrina, the Haiti earthquake, California wildfires, and the World Trade Center.

The BDPNN was organized when it became clear that Berkeley’s Office of Emergency Services (OES) could not organize neighborhood groups. Back in May of 2006, North Berkeley resident Charlotte Nolan attended a Thousand Oaks presentation on disaster preparedness. That motivated her to work with her neighbors to ready themselves for a large-scale emergency. Realizing they had a long way to go, Nolan believed better organized groups could share their experience in how to get a neighborhood engaged. Nolan wanted to connect and coordinate with other neighborhood groups near her, but Berkeley’s OES couldn’t share information about groups that had been awarded emergency supply caches because of privacy concerns.

Eventually Nolan met Lynn Zummo and Norine Smith, two Berkeley neighbors who’d organized their neighborhood and had earned a supply cache. They’d been thinking it would be good for groups with caches to connect. Nolan convinced them to expand the network concept beyond those who had earned a cache to include those who were still in the developmental stages of forming a neighborhood group. The three of them developed what became the BDPNN, and in January of 2009, the group had its first meeting at the Unitarian Fellowship Church.

Nolan’s background in information systems and data analysis was well-suited for her desire to help people and groups to connect, while still maintaining privacy issues. The BDPNN now has more than 400 members and more than 150 groups represented in their database. Norine Smith is working to make the organization a 501(c)3 status nonprofit. BDPNN’s website ( is a clearinghouse of information about emergency preparedness, and their Yahoo list serve ( is often abuzz with exchanges of facts and opinions about specific ways to prepare. They have had numerous presentations on subjects such as two-way radio use and disaster triage.

Tuesday’s Thursday’s session on emergency medical techniques is only the latest. BDPNN has a mentoring program and has negotiated discounts for purchasing emergency supplies. If you are interested in contacting them because you’d like to form your own group, or better organize your neighborhood, or even rejuvenate a lapsed neighborhood group, contact them at

Meetings are pot luck and Network members are invited to bring something small to share. Beverages are provided.

To find out about more events in Berkeley and nearby, bookmark Berkeleyside’s recently launched Events Calendar. We also encourage you to submit your own events.

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