“Just In Case BH is made up of residents and members of the corporate sector who serve as disaster relief volunteers and serve as backup to the city’s first responders immediately following a major emergency disaster,” the manual states. “The program provides a roadmap to self-sufficiency by training volunteers and empowering the community to work together.”
The city manager, fire chief, police chief, and the city’s public information office, headed by director of communications Keith Sterling, collectively constitute the Unified Command. Unified Command interfaces with a North and South Coordinator, who oversees areas north and south of Santa Monica Boulevard, respectively.
The program then divides the city into nine geographic zones, each with a zone coordinator. Each of the nine zones also has an emergency meeting place that is stocked with emergency supplies and can serve as an evacuation center, if needed.
The area coordinators below are the neighborhood coordinators, who are responsible for three to seven blocks. Finally, each block has a block captain.
The structure is designed to flow verified information both bottom-up and top-down as efficiently as possible during times of crisis.
The manual defines additional roles beyond those in the chain of command, including search and rescue, communications volunteers and certified emergency response training volunteers.
Most of the manual provides instructions on how to handle a range of disaster situations and small problems.
“The manual covers a lot of different things that residents might face, not just in a major disaster, but just on everyday things, like how to stop a bleed, how to treat wounds, how to treat with splints, how to dealing with bug bites and stings,” Barton said. “We want to make the community as self-sufficient as possible.”
Barton hopes the manual will demystify and make accessible information that some might find intimidating.
“It just allows them to be that first responder,” he said. “Years ago, the first responders were the police and fire departments. Today is the person who is right next to you or your neighbor.
Vice Mayor Lili Bosse, who first proposed the program in 2020, saw the manual as part of her broader focus on health and wellbeing.
“Being a healthy city has always been our priority and that includes being a prepared city. I’m thrilled and excited that our community finally has everything it needs ‘just in case’ an emergency should arise,” Bosse told the Courier in a statement. “Everyone will know what to do, where to go and how to help each other.”
Vera Markowitz, coordinator of the Just In Case BH program, told the Courier that printing and distributing the manual will be no small feat. With a manual sent to every household in the city, Just In Case BH plans to print around 17,000 copies and hopes to distribute them all in April, although no specific date has been announced.
“This program is the only one of its kind in the entire country, where you can have a hard copy of what to do in an emergency at your doorstep,” she said.
The manual contains information that might not come to mind until an actual disaster occurs. For example, what to do with beloved animals. (They shouldn’t be left behind in a disaster, but don’t risk your own safety trying to find them. Also, most emergency shelters don’t allow pets, except service animals, so research pet shelters and pet-friendly hotels in advance.)
Extreme heat, which is a period of heat above 90 degrees for two to three days, is responsible for more deaths each year than any other type of weather-related event. The manual provides bullet points on how to stay safe in extreme heat, including covering windows with curtains or even cardboard covered with foil, going to the library, and drinking water.
Unexpectedly, you shouldn’t use electric fans when outside temperatures exceed 95 degrees. Although fans can improve comfort, they do not reduce body temperature, which makes it more difficult to detect symptoms of heat-related illnesses.
Barton says the most important information is on the front page.
“It shows the area they’re in,” he said. “It also shows their emergency meeting place, where the city is going to provide first aid supplies and we are working to get healthcare providers who live in the area to help with first aid issues.”
Even as the program continues to gain momentum, it has garnered attention beyond the Beverly Hills border.
“He is considered at the state level as a potential [program] to pilot statewide,” Barton said, explaining that State Sen. Henry Stern (D-Calabasas) has had conversations with the city about the program.