Santa Barbara- S County

'Block Captains' Help Neighborhoods Prepare for any Emergency

The first line of response might just be coming from your own street

Block Captains

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - The growing number of organized neighborhoods are also adding "block captains" to help with the first response team that could help in a small or large emergency.

The Eucalyptus Hill Homeowner Improvement Association has 42 block captains, to help coordinate residents in the hills above Santa Barbara west of Montecito.

They are as connected as any neighborhood can be.

Besides phone lists and email links, they also have portable two-way-type radios that go through a base station with a booster.

Each street also has a leader called a block captain.  That person has become an essential link to nearby homeowners, and then in a network of streets, the complete association is united.

For one resident, it  was put together with a simple knock on the door.

"We don't have a lot of neighbor to neighbor interaction, but this has really helped break that down.   On the street I am on, I had not met one person on Eucalyptus Hill Drive.  Two years later 100 percent of them wanted to be part of the program," said Frank Randall a local resident and block captain.

Before a fire truck or police unit arrives, a block captain can find out how serious the emergency is on their street, and give the first responding units a quick update. 

Terry Tyler, one of the block captains, says he has become very familiar with the residents on his street.  "We have a couple of doctors, we have people who are familiar with construction, we have guys with tools, trucks,  ladders you name it. So, in a particular crisis I know where to get some help."

This area in the Santa Barbara hills was spared from both the Tea Fire (2008) and the Jesusita Fire (2009), but it remains a high risk location.

Resident learned from those two major disasters, that took out hundreds of homes, just how valuable several communication systems can be.

"When we have another 1925  earthquake, it's going to take out everything.  You've got to be able to take care of yourself and you neighbors.  These associations, these local neighborhood associations are vital  in an emergency," said Michael Ditmore who coordinates the radio system.

He runs a test with the portable radios once a month, and says all of the users have back up batteries.

Each unit costs $35.   

Ditmore coordinates the repeater equipment at his house, and also has a link to the local Ham radio users in the area.

He also encourages residents to sign up for the NIXLE alert, and the Reverse 911 messaging systems, that send out community information from emergency agencies.

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