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The Bucket Brigade began as a community relief deployment on January 28, 2018.  Community members joined together in the ancient human tradition of helping neighbors dig out after a disaster –and what a disaster it was.  The Thomas Fire was (at the time) the largest wildfire in California history.  The subsequent debris flow was the largest natural disaster in Santa Barbara County History.  The cleanup was surreal, grueling and emotionally taxing, but that didn’t stop 3,500 volunteers from stepping up to help the Bucket Brigade perform this community service in 2018. The results? 100 properties were cleared, 66 acres of open space cleaned up, over one thousand native oak trees dug out of the muck, 5 1/2 miles of neighborhood trails restored and no major injuries reported.

The Bucket Brigade deployment model is based on the concept of the Incident Command System (ICS) used by professional first responders and adapted to allow for rapid scaling of spontaneous 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 deployment system was an incredibly effective tool for interagency cooperation and collaboration as well as for the safe deployment of thousands of volunteers in a complicated environment. 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 efficiently deploys people and resources within a community to respond to urgent needs using local 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 and to leverage outside aid for the benefit of the community.

Since 2018, we have deployed in grassroots community relief efforts for the Holiday Fire, the Global Pandemic and the Alisal Fire.  In between disasters and crises, we train constantly.  Our training regimen is comprised of physical deployments focused on neighborhood resilience-building .  We call these deployments Community Uplift Projects (CUP’s) and you can learn more about some of our CUP’s on our current projects page.

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