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Disaster Relief & Recovery

Partnering with Santa Barbara County Public Works Department and the Workforce Development Board and operating under a Road Enhancement Partnership Project permit, the Bucket Brigade is deploying a labor force — supported by disaster-recovery funding from the U.S. Department of Labor — to improve the safety and aesthetic of county roads impacted by the Thomas Fire, 1/9 Debris Flow, and subsequent winter storms. The first stretch of our roadway enhancement project was completed in January.

With further input from the Montecito Trails Foundation and the Land Trust for Santa Barbara County, these crews are also working in public open spaces to improve impacted trail systems, creek corridors, and native oak forests.

This partnership will also collaborate with the Montecito Union and Cold Spring school districts on their “Safe Route to School” projects, designed and executed to increase the roadside safety of children and families walking to and from school.

These projects represent an essential component of Montecito’s long-term recovery from the natural disasters. By rebuilding and enhancing the existing network of pathways we are restoring the physical and psychological interconnectedness of our fractured community. The Bucket Brigade has been clearing mud and debris from homes since the catastrophic event, and the extension of our work into the paths and public rights of way was a natural next step. The wellbeing of Montecito is bolstered by pedestrian access to trailways for recreation and transportation. The improved pathways will also be beneficial for local businesses by increasing foot traffic and connecting the commerce centers of the Upper and Lower Villages and the Coast Village Road corridor.

Disaster Preparedness

“By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.”

― Benjamin Franklin

The following resources will help you prepare for natural disasters:


Aware & Prepare: In Santa Barbara County, residents can receive Aware & Prepare alerts and updates via text messages, emails, and cellular and landline phone calls. To receive these messages, go to, click the red “Register for Alerts” box, and provide the necessary information. If you need help signing up, call 805-681-5526 or email

Nixle: This information service operates nationwide, coordinating with local public-safety agencies to send alerts via text messages and social media. To sign up, simply text your zip code to 888777.

Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA, pronounced “wee-uh”): A federal public-messaging tool that allows residents with certain wireless phones and other mobile devices to receive geographically targeted, text-like messages that warn of imminent safety threats. You don’t need to sign up for WEA ― cell phone companies volunteer to participate in the system. Check with yours to see if they do.

Emergency Alert System (EAS): EAS messages are transmitted via radio and television by participating broadcasters. They contain an audio message and/or scrolling text. You don’t have to sign up to receive these types of alerts, but you do need to be tuned into a local TV channel or radio station to get them.

The National Weather Service (NWS) sends out four different types of alerts related to flooding. Know the differences:

  • Flood Advisory: Issued when flooding may become a nuisance or significant inconvenience. Be aware.
  • Flood Watch: Issued when conditions are more favorable for flooding. It does not mean flooding will occur, but it is possible. Be prepared.
  • Flood Warning: Issued when serious flooding is imminent or occurring. Take action.
  • Flash Flood Warning: Issued when a flash flood is imminent or occurring. Take action.

Santa Barbara’s Office of Emergency Management often rebroadcasts these messages.


  • The clearinghouse for all official county information. It contains a ton of resources, from guides to maps to important phone numbers and addresses. Whether you’re in the mode of disaster prep or recovery, all roads lead to
  • The City of Santa Barbara’s Office of Emergency Services features helpful suggestions on assembling supply kits, preparing your business, shutting off utilities, and so on.
  • Perhaps your best source for general health and safety information in crisis situations. Be sure to search through the Central California Region section as well.
  • The Department of Homeland Security’s user-friendly site focused entirely on helping you prepare yourself and your family for any type of disaster.
  • The in-depth website for the Earthquake Country Alliance (ECA), a public-private partnership of people, organizations, and regional associations devoted to helping residents get ready for and survive the next Big One.


After a major disaster, there will likely be delays in services, including the arrival of first responders to your neighborhood. Expect to be on your own for at least 72 hours, with a cache of water, food, clothing, and related supplies assembled and easy to access. Here’s a good guide on how to build your emergency supply kit.


When disaster strikes, you and each member of your household should have a plan on what to do and, if separated, where to meet. If you have to evacuate your home, know where you are going to go. Have a backup plan, as well.



  • County Animal Services*:  (805) 681-5285;
  • County Animal Services Emergency Hotline:  (805) 681-4332
  • Santa Barbara Humane Society*:  (805) 964-4777;
  • Santa Barbara Humane Society Emergency Hotline:  (805) 330-3330
  • City of Santa Barbara Animal Control*:  (805) 963-1513;
  • Earl Warren Showgrounds*:  (805) 687-0766;
  • B.U.N.S. (Bunnies Urgently Needing Shelter)*:  (805) 683-0521;
  • VCA Care Specialty and Emergency Animal Hospital:  (805) 899-2273;
  • Advanced Veterinary Specialists:  (805) 729-4460;

(*Offers emergency boarding services)

Santa Barbara Humane Society’s Lost & Found hotline at (805) 681-5285 or after business hours at (805) 564-6862.

Report lost pets online through Santa Barbara County Animal Services at


Radio Ready:

When the power is out and the internet is down, a radio may be your last hope for receiving critical information. The county partners with a network of Radio Ready stations to broadcast emergency notices with the help of generators and satellite equipment. Be sure you own a hand-crank or battery-operated radio, and keep extra batteries handy.

FM Stations:

  • Santa Barbara/South Coast ― KCLU 88.3 and 102.3; KOSJ 94.1; KTYD 99.9
  • Santa Maria ― KCLU 89.7 and 92.1; KCBX 99.5
  • Lompoc ― KCBX 95.1
  • Santa Ynez/Solvang ― KCBX 90.9; KSYV 96.7; KRAZ 105.9
  • Countywide ― KSPE 94.5; KIST 107.7 *Spanish

AM Stations:

  • Santa Barbara/South Coast ― KOSJ 1490; KZSB 1290; KCLU 1340
  • Santa Maria ― KTMS 990; KUHL 1440

NOAA Weather Radio All Hazards (NWR): NWR is a nationwide network of radio stations broadcasting continuous weather information directly from the nearest National Weather Service office. To receive the Santa Barbara County broadcast, tune your weather radio to the SAME code 006083.


Santa Barbara news agencies report on emergencies and frequently re-broadcast official county messages. Here are the region’s most trusted sources:

Television:  KEYT (Channel 3), KSBY (Channel 6), KKFX (Channel 11), and KCOY (Channel 12)

Print and Online:  Santa Barbara Independent (<em></em>), EdHat (<em></em>), Santa Maria Times (<em></em>), Noozhawk (<em></em>)

Radio:  KCLU (FM 88.3), KDRW (FM 88.7), KCSB (FM91.9), KIST (FM 107.7 *Spanish)


Santa Barbara County has an evacuation map that pinpoints properties in “red zones” at risk for flooding and debris flows. This interactive map is online at Search your street addresses to see if your property has been deemed at-risk.

As big rainstorms approach, people in “red zones” may be asked to evacuate. Santa Barbara County uses its “Ready! Set! Go!” initiative to notify the public.

READY:  The first stage of a potential evacuation is a WEATHER ADVISORY, which will be issued 48-72 hours before the arrival of the storm. This advisory is the County Office of Emergency Management alerting the community to the storm. Be aware: Closely monitor the storm and have a plan if you’re asked to evacuate.

SET:  The next step is the EVACUATION WARNING, issued 24-48 hours before the storm. Prepare to leave; arrange transportation for you, your family, and, if necessary, large animals; make arrangements for family members with special needs; confirm your evacuation plan; gather items you’d like to take with you. Check on your neighbors.

GO:  Within 24 hours of the arrival of a storm that could pose a risk to life or property, the Sheriff’s Office will issue an EVACUATION ORDER, which means it’s time to evacuate if you are in a “red zone.” People who refuse to comply will not be forcibly removed from their homes, but they should not expect rescue or other lifesaving assistance, according to county officials. Flooding and debris flows may close down transportation routes for several days; if you choose to stay, you may become stranded in the disaster area.

REMEMBER: If at any time you feel unsafe, take immediate action and do not wait for a notification to evacuate. Officials may only be able to alert the public with just a few minutes’ notice, or none at all.

Social Media

Twitter is often the most timely social media tool in a disaster. Here are the accounts to follow:

  • Office of Emergency Management (@SBCountyOEM)
  • County of Santa Barbara (@countyofsb)
  • County of Santa Barbara *Spanish (@csbenespanol)
  • Santa Barbara County Fire Department (@SBCOUNTYFIRE)
  • Santa Barbara Sheriff’s Office (@sbsheriff)
  • National Weather Service, Los Angeles (@NWSLosAngeles)
  • CHP Coastal Division (@CHP_Coastal)

Community Self-Rescue (CSR)

In the wake of the Thomas Fire and 1/9 Debris Flow, the Bucket Brigade deployment plan was based on the concept of the Incident Command System (ICS) used by professional first responders. We adapted ICS to allow for rapid scaling of coordinated volunteer and NGO response during the recovery phase of the disaster. We worked steadily through the recovery process, field-testing and adjusting our methodologies based on dynamic and unforeseen circumstances. We realized that our modified ICS was an incredibly effective tool for interagency cooperation and deployment. We began documenting this system for second-response and recovery and have developed a unique solution to the ever-growing problem of disaster relief. We call this model Community Self-Rescue (CSR).

CSR is a direct approach to disaster recovery that rapidly and efficiently deploys people and resources within a community to respond to urgent needs with localized knowledge. Instead of waiting for outside agencies to organize and facilitate the recovery process, CSR empowers the community to work as a team to help survivors get their lives back on track. The Bucket Brigade’s CSR approach is bolstered by the fact that it is led by trusted local residents who understand the needs of impacted neighborhoods and can align with local NGOs and businesses for equipment, meals, and networking. Most importantly, by responding to urgent needs in a rapid and coordinated fashion, the Bucket Brigade galvanized the community belief that, by working together, we could fully recover from the worst disaster in Santa Barbara County history.

Once unified in this way, the greater community implemented one of the biggest and most successful recovery efforts in the region. This is the fundamental tenet of community resiliency: A community united in the belief that by working together in a coordinated way we can get through whatever disasters or crises the future may bring. Our CSR system is an essential component of this resiliency platform and with proper scaling could be replicated statewide.

Moving forward, we are expanding our scope beyond response and reaction into the work of disaster prevention, preparedness, and resiliency building. Our primary focus for 2019 is the full development of our field-tested method for Community Self-Rescue. Our aim is to have a documented and scalable system, training manual, and software platform for successful community mobilization in a disaster.

Youth Leadership Program

In 2019, we will launch our Youth Leadership Program to train high school students in the essential components of emergency response and disaster-relief deployment. Youth will graduate the program proficient in emergency response, leadership skills, and the readiness to serve the community. While meeting community-service hours, youth will also be shown numerous career paths in disaster relief and public health and safety. This civic exposure will benefit the individuals while creating a distributed network of trained cohorts countywide.

The Youth Leadership Program will instruct participants in the essential components of emergency response and effective deployment, including: 

  • CERT (Community Emergency Response Team) training in alliance with the Santa Barbara County Fire Department CERT program to educate volunteers in disaster preparedness, fire safety, and light search and rescue.
  • Training in the fundamentals of public health and safety, including basic first aid, CPR, AED, hazard assessment, and Cottage Hospital’s Stop the Bleed.
  • Disaster-relief deployment and leadership training for effective field leaders capable of volunteer recruitment, organization, and deployment.

Memorial Benches

The Bucket Brigade is creating a custom memorial bench for each victim of the 1/9 Debris Flow. Located around the community and accessible to the general public, the benches will form a network of lasting memorials to help family, friends, and community members to heal and reflect on the lives lost.

We are coordinating with professional woodworker and Santa Barbara-native David Mosely to build the benches with wood from fallen trees in the community. Fastened to each bench will be a dedicative bronze plaque with text provided by the family of the decedent.  

Our first memorial bench dedication took place for David and Jack Cantin on Sunday, February 24, 2019, at Manning Park. The redwood benches were installed at the entrance to the Scout House, where David had served as scoutmaster and Jack was an Eagle Scout.

Search for Lost Children

John “Jack” Cantin

Since the Debris Flow of January 9, 2018, 21 of the 23 victims have been found. Sadly, two have not. Lydia Sutthithepa and John “Jack” Cantin are still missing. The search for Lydia and Jack lies at the heart of our community’s quest for closure after this horrible tragedy.

Looking for Montecito’s lost children is not something we talk about a lot at the Santa Barbara Bucket Brigade, but it is something we have been quietly, persistently doing for more than a year. Most of the mud has been cleaned up from homes and properties throughout the community. But not all of it. And new storms bring down more mud and also exposed previously buried sections of creekbed. There is still a chance that we could find those kids. We have not given up on finding Lydia and Jack.

We are committed to clearing all of the old and new debris between Old Spanish Town and the ocean until the missing children have been found, or until the last pile of mud has been checked and cleared. Clearing the debris also restores harmony to the community and shows resilience.

However, the machines and trucks needed to perform this work cost money. Please consider making a contribution to the Santa Barbara Bucket Brigade to help us complete this work. We have received many generous donations and we have put them to work helping to get this community back on its feet. Together, we can help the community move forward and complete the search for Jack and Lydia.

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