Imagine Oakland with a world-wide reputation for being the safest, most sustainably prepared large city in the country. Picture that anytime there’s an emergency or disaster situation anywhere in the country, it’s Oakland that is mentioned as the place to find out how to make it work well for everyone. Yes, everyone. That’s CARD’s goal for the incredible city of Oakland—safe, sustainably prepared, ready to address our challenges and opportunities. It’s why I’m honored and excited to be writing about safety, preparedness, and resilience for Oakland Local.

The hyper-local focus here will allow us to share an alternative approach that everyone in Oakland can embrace. If you’ve come to one of CARD’s events before, you know that we are passionate about removing fear, threat, and ineffective approaches.  We look to make having safety, preparedness, and resilience an empowering and attainable pursuit for EVERY person, business, and stakeholder in Oakland.  Past emergencies and disasters have always yielded a familiar victim pool, so what we will share here is about breaking the cycle, and changing the entire conversation surrounding our safety, readiness, and resilience. Be it crisis or opportunity, we must rise together. Don’t think of it as preparing for disasters, but preparing for our Oakland community to prosper!

What you can expect to read about in future posts is an “alternative” or “contrarian” approach to public safety, emergency preparedness, and disaster resilience. We’ll be doing some quality truth-telling and myth-busting. If we ditch the wrong ideas about planning, if we refuse to use fear to “motivate”, and if we stop repeating the hideous and wrong messages of “you’re on your own” and “we must standardize the message” we can help Oakland break free and take a leadership role in the national readiness and resilience conversation.  I’ll also share research and real-time lessons for local agencies, and all of it will be served on a big fat reality-filled platter.  There are too many great things happening with the city of Oakland for any of us to tolerate wasting time, money, and other precious resources on what we know just doesn’t work. This is ESPECIALLY true when it stops us from bringing safety, money, prestige, and other benefits to our community.

One exciting development in the world of safety and readiness is the new, dynamic partnership between CARD and the City of Oakland, called “Learn, Lead, Lift.”

Having the City of Oakland adopt a modified version of CARD’s signature fear-free SKIP (Safety Kept in Place) training has been a true turning point. Together with other partners we are reaching deep into the communities where traditional approaches have never succeeded. Just having this level of public acknowledgment and support from Renee Domingo and her team at the Oakland Fire Department’s Emergency Management Services Division is gratifying, and it’s already opening new doors.  Kicking fear and threat to the curb, and having Oaklanders walk their city feeling safe, confident, and knowing they can make a difference is within our grasp!

Oakland is being celebrated and praised in high places. Check out Visit Oakland to learn about the ways our city is taking its rightful place in the pantheon of great cities. Taking on both our real and perceived issues of crime, safety, and readiness is easily one of the best things we can do for the residents and workers of Oakland, as well as for our tourists, investors, businesses, and other stakeholders.

With your help, we can make certain that Oaklanders will be ready to step up, stick together, and make the best of whatever comes our way.

I will look forward to connecting with you to build Oakland’s everyday brilliance AND her unshakable resilience.

Ana-Marie Jones is the executive director of CARD – Collaborating Agencies Responding to Disasters

Editor’s Note: This piece reflects an individual opinion and is not a reported story from Oakland Local. Oakland Local invites community residents to share their views about events and issues in Oakland. See our guidelines.

About The Author

Ana-Marie Jones is the Executive Director of CARD - Collaborating Agencies Responding to Disasters, a nonprofit located in Alameda County, California. Created by local community agencies after the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake, CARD offers an alternative approach to emergency preparedness, disaster response, and planning activities. In her tenure, she has rewritten and redefined CARD’s services and curriculum to make all aspects of readiness easy, empowering, and sustainable for nonprofits, faith agencies and other stakeholders.

14 Responses

  1. R2D2II

    Sounds very hot-air-filled to me. Lots of the use of the word “safety.” How about the daily disasters of Oaklanders shooting other Oaklanders with guns? What’s CARD doing about that?

  2. Oakie

    Somehow I smell taxpayer’s money being wasted.

    Then again, they seem to be smoking something really really good.

  3. Gilgamesh

    What a load of hogwash. I’ve sat in enough meetings with people like the author throwing acronyms and vague feel-good ideas at the audience as rapidly as possible to obscure the fact that nothing substantive is being said. And really, phrases like “…we are passionate about removing fear, threat, and ineffective approaches…”, simply idiotic in real life application in any urban area, but doubly hilarious when applied to a town currently living under siege mentality in too many neighborhoods. Feel-good blather stiffens the resolve of some, I suppose, but doesn’t do much out in the real world.

  4. len raphael

    Ever wonder where City bureaucrats and some local non-profit execs learn those catch phrases and buzz words? Must be on the on job writing and reading emails to each other. Sitting thru endless meetings droning on.

    Is there an exam in talking liking like that you have to pass to get promoted to managerial rank in Oakland govt?

    To be fair private industry has it’s own high tech bubbly bs language also.

  5. amjcard

    Thank you all for your posts to our first article.

    I live and work in Oakland, but I was born and raised in New York City — so really, I understand the cynicism in your posts. However, given my love for Oakland and my job of working with community agencies who struggle with crime, violence, inadequate budgets, etc., I hope you’ll understand why I will remain focused on trying to make Oakland the safest, most sustainably prepared, large city in the country.

    In the event that I fail miserably in my quest, and we only become a little safer and somewhat better prepared, I will try to accept it, document it, help others learn from my failures, and hope they care enough to find ways to accomplish this goal.

    For the record, in future posts I will give more details on why traditional preparedness efforts that define “disasters” as earthquakes, fires, floods, acts of terrorism, etc., ignore the realities of many of our communities.

    My hope is that all of you who posted here GENUINELY love Oakland, and that you will be willing to help make Oakland a stronger, more united, safer community.

    Ana-Marie Jones, Executive Director, CARD

  6. Len Raphael

    In the spirit of transparency, since the author is the director of a quasi public emergency preparedness organization, please give us a straightforward summary of Oakland’s emergency plans for coping with a major earthquake or the link to such document.

    I’m particularly interested to see the estimates for the number of fire and police we’ll have available if bridges and tunnels are blocked for a month; and if we expect that National Guard would take their place.

    What are the earthquake ratings for OPD and Fire Dept and City Hall?

    Also how broken water mains and main supply aqueducts would be handled.

  7. Joel V.

    Good luck with that… I feel much safer here in metro Detroit, then I ever did in Oakland, Fremont, San Jose and everywhere else I lived, growing up in the bay area… Oakland cant even resolve it’s problem with homeless anarchist taking over other peoples property. How are they going to solve the problem with violent crimes? Maybe the reason I feel safer in Detroit is due to Michigan’s concealed carry and stand your ground law’s – The crooks tend to think twice, when they know that anyone, even 60 years old grandpa’s may be packing heat…

  8. Seamus

    Pie in the Sky.

    Oakland is the robbery capital of America with 10.9 robberies per 1000. Cleveland (no 2) only has only 8.3.

    I didn’t see anything to address the biggest problems in Oakland, which are robberies and shootings. This tells me something about the author’s outlook — great intentions and a huge blind spot where the elephant in the living room is concerned.

  9. amjcard

    Thank you for your comment Len,

    In the spirit of full disclosure: CARD is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit agency, and our mission commits us to focusing on preparing our local nonprofit and faith agencies. We work to make the various aspects of emergency preparedness and disaster response easy, accessible, and sustainable for them and for the consumers they serve. We work in partnership with many dozens of local government agencies, private sector partners, advocacy groups, funders, and other stakeholders. We do not, and will not, speak on behalf of those entities, nor can we extend our stretched resources to researching the many questions you posed. However, if you do find answers to your questions, then if you share the documents or links with me, I’d be happy to share them with others. We are quite active on social media, and have a monthly electronic newsletter.

    We engage more in the public safety sphere than some emergency service agencies, because the communities we serve experience crime and violence as the “disaster” they face. For MANY of the people in Oakland, it would be an absolute luxury to be able to worry about earthquakes.

    If you have questions about what we do, why we do it, or the research that justifies why we offer a different approach, I’m happy to share it. I will be sharing more about this in future articles for Oakland Local. I believe millions of dollars are wasted across our region on ineffective, threat-based preparedness campaigns and inappropriate approaches. I would rather see that money invested in making Oakland a genuinely safer, more united, resilient city.

    Given our organizational mission and our limitations, I choose to focus on what we can do, and what actually helps our communities. If pissing and moaning helped, or if I thought puking the River Nile of negativity about the status quo would work, then I’d happily piss, moan, and puke. In fact, if you knew me, you’d know that I’d invest my own money to research (and then get trained in) how to become a high-level expert at pissing/moaning/puking. However, this approach would not work for our communities, for CARD, nor for me.

    Len, I’m sharing this with you because, based on your questions, you do seem to have a sincere interest in some parts of this conversation.

    Ana-Marie Jones, Executive Director, CARD

  10. amjcard

    Thank you for your comment Seamus,

    Several years ago people thought my hometown, New York City, was hopeless. Every day we’d hear about the high crime rate, how businesses were leaving, families were fleeing for their lives, how “the Big Apple was rotting” and on and on. It’s not like that any longer, thanks to the people who believed AND who were willing to work to make change happen. I believe a similar turn-around will happen for Oakland, and I’m willing to work for it. For the record: New York City had even more naysayers then, than Oakland has now.

    You’ll notice I never said it was going to be easy, and I didn’t claim to have answers to all of Oakland’s complex issues. The crime, the violence, the safety issues, the infrastructure failures, the political woes and challenges we have in Oakland are part of my daily life. It’s a safe bet that I have more skin in this game than most, if not all, of the people who stopped by to drop a negative comment. This is my chosen focus, I live here, I work here, I’m in the field of emergency services, and I’m responsible for staff and volunteers who serve here. Most important of all is that we have thousands of local customers who are from some of the most marginalized communities of Oakland, and they are worth fighting for.

    You labeled my post “Pie in the Sky”. OK, I accept that. If I’m offering a “Pie in the Sky” vision of Oakland, then how would you label the view of Oakland as presented by the people who commented on this post? I’d go with “Poison in the Veins.” Investors and funders who want to justify not investing in Oakland are happy to pluck the comments here and say “Look! Even ‘Oakland locals’ don’t believe in their city.”

    Give a quick look to the comments in this thread. I put forth a positive and optimistic vision for the future of Oakland and look at what is immediately said about me, assumed about my world view, etc. Unapologetic, dismissive, and disparaging comments abound. Nice. It’s why most people don’t read comments on blogs. It’s easier to lob anonymous criticisms, and beat down a positive projection for the future with some pointed, past-based pessimism.

    I will continue to be aggressively optimistic about Oakland. If I’m going to err, and I’m sure I will, it will be on the side of “pie” rather than “poison.” Thank you for acknowledging my “great intentions.” We all appreciated that.

    Ana-Marie Jones, Executive Director, CARD

  11. Phillip

    I’m really digging Ana-Maria Jones’ bluntness.

    Here’s an idea: Ana-Maria Jones vs R2D2II in a head-to-head for mayor of Oakland. If either of y’all run for the office, count me in for $50 to your campaigns.

    Who else wants in on this action?

  12. amjcard

    Thank you so much for your comment Phillip. You win the prize for funniest and most uplifting reply to our post!

    I’m thinking I wouldn’t last long in a political race. My focus on transforming how we define disasters and how we prepare our communities, the bluntness you noticed, and my apparently confounding habit of reading and then applying research, can be — oh, let’s go with “challenging” — to the people who benefit from the status quo, or who fear change. If that $50 you so generously mentioned is burning a hole in your pocket, may I suggest that you invest it in building the safety and readiness of a local nonprofit agency? We can show you lots of ways $50 can make a big difference. 🙂

    Thanks again for the uplifting comment!

    Ana-Marie Jones, Executive Director, CARD


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