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Harnessing the power of community for life in a changing world.

Our Story

The Santa Barbara Bucket Brigade formed as a natural community response to a massive disaster. On January 9, 2018, the “Thomas Fire Debris Flow” took the lives of 23 neighbors in Montecito, CA. 587 homes were damaged or destroyed, bridges were gone, power down, water mains broken and a profound feeling of helplessness set in. Despite the overwhelming grief, our collective instinct toward action engaged and the Bucket Brigade emerged from the mud, leading an army of caring volunteers to help neighbors in need. People came from all over to dig out homes, clear and restore open spaces, rebuild trails and to help restore the community. We learned that when people genuinely pull together in a crisis, a town can move from helpless to hopeful in a heartbeat.

As we look to the challenges of life in a changing climate, we see this kind of organized, cooperative action as a path forward for vulnerable communities in California and across the globe.

“Helping heals the helpers as well as those who are helped”
– Abe Powell Co-Founder – CEO

   Our Principles

  • A caring, cooperative and organized community is the fundamental building block of resilience.

  • Local knowledge empowers all preparation and recovery efforts.

  • Swift, collaborative and sustained action is required for disaster resilience.

  • The capacity to “self-rescue” is the difference between helpless community and and hopeful community in a crisis.

We know natural disasters change communities, but how we change is up to us.

Our Work

Communities experience disasters in a pattern that repeats and the same needs and gaps in services show up again and again.

The Disaster Cycle: Our Current Reality

Immediate response to a disaster is a flurry of activity and a tremendous investment of resources over a few days. Mitigation starts almost immediately but there is a delay before recovery resources are activated. Short-term recovery (3-6 months) blends into long-term recovery which is usually well-resourced for 9-18 months but can take many years. Post-disaster assessment leads to some planning, prevention and preparation, but these efforts diminish over time and we tend to collectively forget the severity and cost of previous disasters.

The Gaps: Where Systems Fail

The roots of the Bucket Brigade have grown in response to local disasters over many decades. Each time, we’ve seen the same needs and gaps in services, and each time, we get a little better at helping to meet those needs. Nobody wants to be alone in this – cleaning up our homes and yards, rebuilding, and preparing for the next disaster. The process of preparing together, responding together, recovering and rebuilding as a real community is the best way possible to weave a genuine community safety net.

Our Plan: Building Capacity for Resilience

We build grassroots resilience capacity every day:

  • We organize local communities and volunteer leaders for resilience and cooperation.
  • We train volunteers and volunteer leaders to be prepared for cooperative action at the Bucket Brigade Academy and through year-round Community Uplift Projects.
  • We deploy spontaneous volunteers for disaster relief and to provide humanitarian aid in response to community crises.

Creating a community that is ready, willing and able to help neighbors in a time of need .


The Bucket Brigade and its leadership has been honored throughout California with the following awards:

Nonprofit of the Year 2018 California Association of Nonprofits

Environmental Hero Award Environmental Defense Center

Community Hero Award Montecito Firefighters Charitable Foundation

Local Heroes Santa Barbara Independent

Community Hero Award Santa Barbara Contractors Association

Honoree of the Year 2018 Hospitality Santa Barbara

Spirit of Service Award Rotary Club of Montecito

Community Service Award Chamber of the Santa Barbara Region

Community Service Award Santa Barbara Association of Realtors

Jacaranda Award for Community Service Santa Barbara Beautiful

Sky Changers Award The Carbon Institute

Honorary Membership Rotary Club of Santa Barbara

Lutah Maria Riggs Award Santa Barbara Chapter American Institute of Architects and American Riviera Bank

We don’t get ready. We stay ready. Join us.

Contact Us!


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