Reducing Our Risk

CARD - Collaborating Agencies Responding to Disasters

CARD's Wordle

Entry Overview

We believe the best solution for disaster preparation is shifting from "avoiding disasters" to infusing communities with skill sets to mobilize their assets to accomplish any goal, and help them build their everyday brilliance into their disaster resilience. Nationwide, we've ignored research showing we've spent countless hundreds of millions of dollars pushing a "disaster" focused approach to preparation. CARD’s innovation is to make preparation and readiness an empowering pursuit — for all communities — without disasters and threats being the reasons for action.

We operate in a county blessed with a diverse landscape, multiple threats, frequent emergency activations, and with a diverse multiethnic/multilingual community. In the 25 years since the Loma Prieta earthquake devastated our community, we found very few communities ever sustainably embraced disaster preparation, mitigation efforts, or response planning, while virtually every community was well aware of the highly branded agencies that provide disaster preparation services or recovery activities.

Our approach is to help nonprofits, faith agencies, and service providers to become the empowered messengers of a different approach to preparation and readiness.


General Info
Email :
Organization Address: 
1736 Franklin Street, #450
Oakland, California 94612
United States
Population Impacted: 
1.5 Million
Identify the likelihood and frequency of this hazard : 
Like many coastal communities, Alameda County faces the threat of flooding on an ongoing basis. According to The Pacific Institute, “…100 year floods will be 20 year events by 2033, and will be two year events by 2060.” Our threats are intensified by our increased probability of earthquakes, as these events can trigger tsunamis, seiches, and other flooding scenarios.
Explain how vulnerable the community is to this hazard: 
The Northern California Bay Area is uniquely vulnerable because we face multiple weather-related threats, as well as the fact that our systems are known to be susceptible to, and likely unable to cope with, catastrophic flooding. Our multiple disaster hazards, our range of diverse populations, our varied land use (crowded urban areas, suburbs, industrial complexes, vineyards, etc.), and a community hard hit by the economic downturn, gives us an unusually high level of vulnerability.
List the potential affects of this hazard: 
Significant flooding can devastate our economy as well as our diverse business ecosystem. Alameda County is a hub of economic activity for our region, as well as being a well-established international transit and shipping hub. Catastrophic flooding would damage this as well as cause avoidable suffering and displacement for our incredibly diverse, vulnerable, multiethnic, multilingual populations.
Identify how sensitive the community is to these affects: 
Many parts of our jurisdiction are highly sensitive to disaster. Oakland, one of the major cities in this jurisdiction, is gaining increased attention as an up-and-coming restaurant and entertainment destination. We are also famous for our political advocacy. A flood, poorly handled, could devastate our fragile economic recovery and provide fuel for sensitive political issues, including the noticeable lack of support of programs that address our vulnerable communities and people with limited resources.
Preparedness Goal: 
We help vulnerable communities to mobilize their assets to be part of the bigger solution. We prepare them to prosper!
Implementing Actions: 

Our solution has been to rewrite and reframe all readiness activities so that the conversations, the activities, and the goals aren't attached to disasters, threats, and events outside of our immediate control. Our focus instead is on building the capacity of vulnerable communities to mobilize their assets to accomplish their chosen goals, building their everyday brilliance into useable skills.  It's disaster preparation, emergency readiness, and crisis communications without the disasters, emergencies, and crisis.

We teach the unappreciated skill of being able to generate immediate, workable solutions from supplies we already have. Whether a community mobilizes to produce a block party, to apply for a grant, or to respond to a community disaster or crisis — rapid asset mobilization is a teachable, practical, empowering skill to have.

A small specific example is that we help all audiences to embrace their cell phones as primary tools for resource mobilization, alerting and warning, communication and documentation, and so much more. With CARD's innovations, virtually anyone with a cell phone can be an extraordinary resource, and a hero for themselves, their own families, and their greater community.

Another low-tech activity we champion is learning basic whistle and flashlight skills. When floods disrupt communication, or when the rising waters strand residents, a simple, yet remarkably powerful solution comes in the form of a simple whistle and flashlight. We’ve long known that high-tech solutions can be incredibly powerful, but simple, inexpensive, no-tech solutions reach into the deepest roots of our community – removing barriers to access for our lowest income residents, as well as those separated by language.

Describe Your Solution: 

With 94% of the population actively ignoring the familiar, conventional emergency readiness conversation, we lack the level of broad-based political buy-in we need to support effective risk reduction.

Our solution is ultimately about making preparedness a beneficial pursuit for all people — not just the 2 to 4%. Further, by reframing the conversation, removing the traumatizing imagery, and focusing efforts on useful, practical skills, we enable this conversation to receive the attention, buy-in, and support it has long needed. 

When emergency management activities show few (if any) immediately beneficial results, and 94% of the population does not champion or truly understand the multifaceted benefits of active risk reduction, we can understand why so few elected officials and business leaders make it a priority. Our solutions and actions are allowing the most vulnerable communities and the agencies that serve them to embrace preparedness as a way of achieving other long-standing goals. Our solutions allow for emergency managers to work more effectively and appropriately with community-based agencies. This approach allows for far more traction in the world of taking action for meaningful risk reduction. Across our nation, there is no shortage of information. A quick Google search shows that there's plenty of information available related to disaster risk reduction. But as a nation, we have all experienced the long-standing dearth of inspiration and effective implementation. CARD's solutions seek to fill that gap, and meaningfully reduce our risks from weather-related disasters.


CARD's solution is high leverage, we save money, we increase awareness, and we reduce liability. And, specifically for our diverse nonprofit sector, we help agencies learn how to be more fundable for disaster-related activities. We are able to help anyone add “emergency preparation” as a marketable job skill.


It's hard to estimate how many trees have been killed to produce countless binders, brochures, and pamphlets that have never been used to address our risks. All of CARD’s solutions are greener, kinder to the environment, and use fewer resources to reach more people. We intentionally make greener choices, and our work on framing messages is particularly interesting to advocates working on climate change.


CARD’s approach and all of our solutions are exponentially more "pro social" than conventional methods. By intentionally targeting nonprofits and faith agencies as effective intermediaries and empowered messengers to vulnerable communities, and embracing the “Prepare to Prosper!” framework, we help to build and strengthen the social fabric of our nation. By removing the fear and threat messages, we make the entire conversation more social and inclusive.

What were the negative or unintended impacts (if any) associated with implementing this solution? : 

In the early years of implementing CARD’s “Prepare to Prosper” approach we discovered that many champions of the conventional approach to readiness were threatened by this alternative approach. It was difficult for some to conceive of a coordinated response with so many nonprofits and faith agencies in the mix. Others were upset that non-traditional messengers and agencies were being acknowledged and promoted. We had to confront the fear of change, the need to redefine “disasters”, and perhaps most painfully, our community needed to accept that different messengers were needed to effectively reach and empower diverse communities. Because of social media - particularly Facebook and Twitter - failures in the areas of engaging and serving vulnerable communities are widely known. Emergency managers who initially resented our reformulating traditional concepts have come around to appreciate the difference that we make in their communities.

Thankfully, the last several catastrophic events have helped the emergency management community to seek new solutions and be willing to embrace diverse approaches delivered by new messengers.

Return on Investment: How much did it cost to implement these activities? How do your results above compare to this investment?: 

CARD routinely operates on a budget of less than $500,000 per year. In the city of Oakland, it costs over $250,000 per year to put a single police officer on the street. Comparing what our tools and resources can do for hundreds of nonprofits serving tens of thousands our most vulnerable residents and marginalized communities, there really is no comparison as to how cost-effective it is to embrace and replicate the CARD model. No amount of fear- and threat-based messaging about impending disasters will motivate vulnerable communities to obtain kits and write plans and otherwise follow the traditional disaster preparation path, so we’ve lost millions pursuing this approach across the country. Our solution brings benefit to every day operations for any business and allows people to embrace preparedness and response from an empowered position, where even the poorest and most vulnerable people are able to make a difference for themselves and others. On our small budget we’ve been able to help thousands of people across the country.

What are the main factors needed to successfully replicate this solution elsewhere?: 

The main factors needed are open-minded visionaries who are willing to let go of the status quo. Hundreds of millions of dollars are spent across the country funding readiness and risk reduction efforts that research has shown to be ineffective, harmful, and unsustainable. With financial support, and perhaps some technical advice, CARD can help virtually any community to replicate our model. It may fly in the face of traditional thinking, but the best way to engage people in disaster preparation and risk reduction is to stop talking about disasters, risks, and threats, and instead focus instead on a different set of skills and a different end goal — where everyone in a community is fully included in making their communities strong, safe, and able to embrace whatever challenges or opportunities are presented.

Contest Info
Contest Name: 
Reducing Our Risk

Contest Partners

Contest Sponsors