connect / 2014

Connected + Engaged = Resilient Communities

Connected + Engaged = Resilient Communities

Idea submitted in the My LA2050 Maker Challenge by American Red Cross Los Angeles Region

To launch an innovative, volunteer-run community engagement project that will create a more resilient Los Angeles.


Please describe yourself.

Collaboration (partners are signed up and ready to hit the ground running!)

In one sentence, please describe your idea or project.

To launch an innovative, volunteer-run community engagement project that will create a more resilient Los Angeles.

Does your project impact Los Angeles County?

Yes (benefits all of LA County)

Which area(s) of LA does your project benefit?

  • Central LA
  • East LA
  • South LA
  • San Gabriel Valley
  • San Fernando Valley
  • South Bay
  • Westside

What is your idea/project in more detail?

We also believe in the power of Angelenos to shape the future of our region. In terms of community resilience, the future is in our hands more than we realize. We are long overdue for the “Big One” — a catastrophic earthquake that is predicted to wreak havoc. Consensus among experts is that LA residents in the event of a catastrophic earthquake will need to be prepared to take care of themselves for 3 to 7 days until outside help arrives. Our idea is to implement a community engagement project that incorporates a neighbor-to-neighbor preparedness approach as well as a preparedness smart phone app in an effort to create a more connected, and therefore resilient LA. It is after all in the coming together that we are strongest.

What will you do to implement this idea/project?

Our project plan will combine some old-fashioned community networking via Map Your Neighborhood with new technology via the Team Red Cross App.

Map Your Neighborhood (MYN): This initiative is designed to improve disaster readiness at the neighborhood level, teaching neighbors to rely on each other during the hours or days before first responders may be able to reach them. A neighborhood leader, in this case at first a Red Cross Community Ambassador* and then his/her trainees, holds MYN neighborhood meetings to: identify the skills and equipment inventory each neighbor has that are useful in an effective disaster response; create a neighborhood map; develop a neighborhood contact list; and produce a plan to work together as a team to evaluate the neighborhood after a disaster and take the necessary actions.

Team Red Cross App: This brand new app provides solutions for how to best spread preparedness and relief information as widely as possible. It also utilizes the corps of spontaneous volunteers — everyday humanitarians who emerge to support their neighbors during disasters of all scope and size— by digitally educating, coordinating, and mobilizing volunteers who are ready to help at a moment’s notice. Through this app, that will be promoted by our Community Ambassadors during the Map Your Neighborhood sessions, users will: learn about the responsibilities of a spontaneous volunteer via simple steps, short videos and quizzes; receive and respond to push notifications for volunteer jobs based on their location and preferences; share situational awareness and First Aid content from the app to those around them and affected by disaster; and earn different badges for their activities.

Neighborhoods that are prepared for emergencies save lives, reduce the severity of injuries and trauma, and reduce property damage. And neighbors working together toward this goal improve the overall quality of community life.

  • Community Ambassadors are leaders who have been selected to serve as community representatives of the Red Cross to promote and increase volunteerism and preparedness in neighborhoods where they live and work. Our new preparedness project will be launched through our Community Ambassador Program. In order to serve the needs of our vast and diverse Los Angeles population, the American Red Cross Los Angeles Region works side by side with a network of Community Ambassadors.

How will your idea/project help make LA the best place to CONNECT today? In 2050?

In Southern California, it is not a matter of if, but rather when a catastrophic earthquake will occur. In fact, by most accounts we are 150 years overdue for the “Big One,” an earthquake of a magnitude 7.8 or higher. If an earthquake this size jolts the lower half of the San Andreas Fault, this could mean thousands of lives lost, billions of dollars in property damage, close to a half a million businesses and 4.5 million workers impacted; potentially crippling the area’s economy.

As the Red Cross has witnessed first-hand and as studies demonstrate, being prepared is the most critical step in mitigating risk and enabling a community’s ability to recover. A County of Los Angeles Public Health survey found that 100% of Los Angeles residents believe a catastrophic earthquake is imminent, but only a mere 6% of households in Los Angeles reported being “completely prepared.” Since predictions also point to the need for LA residents to be prepared for a minimum of 3 to upwards of 7 days until outside help can arrive, implementing a new multi-faceted and multi-generational preparedness strategy via a highly successful Community Ambassador Program will serve the preparedness needs of Angelenos today and will create better outcomes for our tomorrow. Neighbors working together now will create resilient communities that can face any emergency. While we cannot predict the exact timing of disasters, we can do everything we can now to come together now to create a more hopeful future.

It will be because of the efforts we collectively take now that will allow for a 2050 that is a year of resilience and hope and not one of devastation and loss. The connections and bonds that are made now through this community-based work will also make for a well-connected, and therefore stronger Los Angles overall. A Los Angeles that is full of residents who can rely on one another for support. A Los Angeles where residents volunteer to help their fellow community members. A Los Angeles that because of this unity can stand in the face of disaster and not fall.

Whom will your project benefit?

Currently, Community Ambassadors represent more than 100 communities throughout Los Angeles County, with more Community Ambassadors being selected every quarter: Playa Vista, Del Rey, Marina Del Rey, Venice, Pasadena, Altadena, South Pasadena, East Pasadena, San Marino, San Pasqual, Alhambra, San Gabriel, South San Gabriel, East San Gabriel, La Cañada Flintridge, Arcadia, Whittier Narrows, El Monte, North El Monte, South El Monte, Temple City, Rosemead, Monrovia, Bradbury, Sierra Madre, Duarte, Mayflower Village, Baldwin Park, Claremont, Industry, Pomona, La Verne, San Dimas, West San Dimas, Ramona, Glendora, Azusa, Citrus, Vincent, West Covina, Valinda, West Puente Valley, La Puente, Hacienda Heights, North Whittier, Avocado Heights, Diamond Bar, South Diamond Bar, Rowland Heights, Walnut, Charter Oak, Irwindale, South San Jose Hills, Lancaster, Leona Valley, Northeast Antelope Valley, Northwest Antelope Valley, Palmdale, Northwest Palmdale, Quartz Hill, Sun Village, Acton, Lake Los Angeles, Desert View Highlands, Littlerock, Southeast Antelope Valley, Angeles Crest, Agua Dulce, Green Valley, Elizabeth Lake, Lake Hughes, Glendale, Atwater Village, Glassell Park, Cypress Park, Mount Washington, Highland Park, Eagle Rock, Montecito Heights, Vermont-Slauson, Hyde Park, Vermont Knolls, University Park, Exposition Park, Leimert Park, Jefferson Park, West Adams, Baldwin Hills, Crenshaw, Hawthorne, El Segundo, San Pedro, Harbor City, Harbor Gateway, Hermosa Beach, Gardena, Monterey Park, Covina, Van Nuys, Valley Glen, Valley Village, Culver City, West Los Angeles, Santa Clarita, La Crescenta, Inglewood, Lakewood, Cerritos, Whittier, Long Beach, Manhattan Beach, Santa Monica, Torrance, Redondo Beach, Compton, Cambodian Community in Long Beach, La Mirada, Montebello, Rancho Palos Verdes, Palos Verdes Estates, Rolling Hills, and Rolling Hills Estates.

Please identify any partners or collaborators who will work with you on this project.

The following on-going partnerships will support the implementation of our new project: Community Emergency Response Team (CERT), Washington State Emergency Management System, Community Police Advisory Board, City of Los Angeles Office of Emergency Management, LA County Office of Emergency Management, Neighborhood Councils, and Emergency Network Los Angeles. These partners offer additional preparedness training, cross-promote programs and services, serve in a program advisory capacity, help identify new Community Ambassadors, work with Community Ambassadors to identify Neighborhood Councils and community-based organizations who need preparedness presentations. Three factors critical to our success of these collaborations are: shared mission; continual dialogue about best practices; and exchange of ideas, promotion and training programs.

How will your project impact the LA2050 “Connect” metrics?

  • Rates of volunteerism
  • Adults getting sufficient social & emotional support
  • Participation in neighborhood councils
  • Percentage of Angelenos that volunteer informally (Dream Metric)

Please elaborate on how your project will impact the above metrics.

Through both the launch of Map Your Neighborhood and the Team Red Cross App, many more Los Angeles residents will learn a great deal more about the Red Cross’s five lines of service, Disaster Relief, Service to the Armed Forces, Blood Services, Preparedness Health & Safety, and International Services, and will often want to get more involved in a program that inspires them. More Community Ambassadors, Red Cross volunteers, will be recruited through this work as well. As neighbors work on Map Your Neighborhood together, more residents will volunteer their time to achieve the key components of the initiative will likely to engage with their local CERT team, neighborhood block associations and councils.

Neighbors and community members working together to prepare and protect themselves, their families and neighborhoods will lead to increased social and emotional support for more adult Angelenos.

The Team Red Cross App recruits and trains “informal,” spontaneous volunteers inspired to act in the moment after a disaster, no matter what the scale. A Team Red Cross volunteer’s only action, an incredibly important action, might also be to send preparedness and relief information onto those in need in their neighborhoods and beyond.

Please explain how you will evaluate your project.

We will measure our success by tracking the number of : – New Community Ambassadors; expecting 20% increase in the next year – Neighborhoods participating in Map Your Neighborhood – Preparedness actions taken in neighborhoods participating in Map Your Neighborhood at least three preparedness actions taken per household – Red Cross Disaster Action Team (DAT) volunteers and spontaneous volunteers – Community members who take on neighborhood leader roles for Map Your Neighborhood; – Community members who volunteer for causes that they are passionate about – Community members who report feeling more connected to their neighbors and to those within their communities; at least 80% surveyed – Community members who feel better prepared and whose neighborhoods are more resilient; at least 80% of all Map Your Neighborhood participants – Team Red Cross downloads and Red Cross disaster preparedness downloads; 50,000 throughout the County

Evaluation tactics will include: Map Your Neighborhood pre- and post-preparedness surveys, assessment at quarterly Community Ambassador meetings, as well as program review by quarterly PrepareLA Executive Committee and bi-monthly PrepareLA Steering Committee.

What two lessons have informed your solution or project?

Lesson 1: Conveying preparedness information using a peer-to-peer approach is the most effective tactic. The Community Ambassador Program has been such a success because our ambassadors are passionate about protecting and preparing the neighborhoods where they live and work. This passion is highly contagious. Other community members often volunteer or take preparedness action that they see modeled by a fellow member of their community. The Map Your Neighborhood neighbor-to- neighbor approach should also prove true the “keeping up with the Jones’” theory true as well.

Lesson 2: Incorporating different methodologies to engage a broader cross-section of the Los Angeles community increases preparedness, volunteerism, connectedness and therefore community resiliency. Both in terms of content and delivery, preparedness information is definitely not “one size fits all” much like the way that people prefer to connect is not one size fits all. This is why our project incorporates both neighbor-to-neighbor interaction to discuss preparedness in a group setting as well as an online platform from which individuals can download preparedness and relief information and connect to community members on-line. This multi-faceted approach also transcends generational lines as well.

Explain how implementing your project within the next twelve months is an achievable goal.

As we have found firsthand during this third full year of the Community Ambassador Program, it is true in practice what social scientists report: people become more motivated to take preparedness action is when they see other people taking preparedness action, especially their peers; and that together, a community is able to manage challenges that go beyond what any unaffiliated group of individuals can accomplish. To date our community ambassadors reach 102 communities throughout Los Angeles County with the goal of reaching all 272 in time. As a result, thousands of young people and adults have attended preparedness events and classes run or organized by Community Ambassadors and have also received or built preparedness kits. Community Ambassadors have also helped increase the number of Red Cross volunteers to a total of 8,000. Additionally, Community Ambassadors have worked with their elected officials to facilitate the signing of 32 preparedness proclamations. With this solid program framework in place along with our strong program partnerships, implementing our new preparedness strategy within the next year is achievable.

Please list at least two major barriers/challenges you anticipate. What is your strategy for ensuring a successful implementation?

Challenge 1: The vast majority of LA residents understand conceptually that disasters happen all of the time and that the “Big One” is very likely to happen; and yet, there is a disconnect between this understanding and actually joining in the conversation and taking action to prepare. The neighbor-to-neighbor Map Your Neighborhood approach is effective because hearing preparedness information from a peer tends to resonate, and seeing a neighbor take preparedness action to protect his/her family tends to inspire others to also take action.

Challenge 2: One of the most popular reasons people give as to why they do not volunteer is they do not have the time to commit. The Team Red Cross App removes this obstacle as users are asked to volunteer their time during times of emergency as they are able, and have the option to decline any volunteer jobs via their smart phone. The Team Red Cross App training is also a web-based, self-paced training as well.

What resources does your project need?

  • Network/relationship support
  • Money (financial capital)
  • Volunteers/staff (human capital)
  • Publicity/awareness (social capital)
  • Community outreach