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Listos California: Bringing Equity to Disaster Preparedness

Year after year, California is reminded of the devastation brought by wildfires and other natural disasters. That devastation has disproportionately impacted our state’s diverse and vulnerable populations – our older adults, people with disabilities, residents with language barriers, families in poverty, and others who are isolated, whether due to cultural, geographic, or other circumstances.

Valley Vision was proud to help combat this reality while serving as the backbone organization for the Listos California emergency preparedness campaign from 2019 to 2021. It was our first statewide project with implementation taking place almost entirely outside of the greater Sacramento region, where most of Valley Vision’s work typically takes place.

Listos California is a first-of-its-kind effort to bring equity to disaster preparedness, launched by the Governor and State Legislature in 2019 and anchored at the Governor’s Office of Emergency Services (Cal OES). The campaign was designed with the sole intent of providing diverse and often overlooked populations with knowledge and tools to be better prepared if ever faced with an emergency. 

To ensure campaign messaging would effectively reach and resonate with the primary audiences, Listos California took a studied approach and developed new tools in formats and styles to appeal to the diverse audience groups.  More than 80 unique assets were developed and presented in more than 20 languages.  Perhaps even more significant than the tools developed, however, was the approach that Listos California took to reaching the targeted audiences. The state, through Cal OES and California Volunteers, awarded grants to more than 80 community-based organizations and service organizations around the state. The grantees were selected because they understood their local communities, knew which populations needed to be reached and which trusted voices would capture the attention of targeted populations most.  They also knew where to go and which mediums to use to reach the populations. It was this on-the-ground knowledge and ability to customize at the local level that fueled the success of the campaign.

The Listos California campaign partnered with artists to create culturally competent and compelling messaging (Credit: Ernesto Yerena)

In our role, Valley Vision provided guidance and technical assistance to the grantees to help amplify their respective and collective impact. We also oversaw the work of dozens of creative, strategic, and production consultants and vendors that developed curricula, content, and assets used to engage targeted audiences.  This organizational backbone role also provided us with the ultimate vantage point to observe what can be accomplished when you have the right mix of partners, all of whom are passionately committed to a cause. 

The state’s initial goal for Listos California was to engage one million diverse and vulnerable Californians with emergency preparedness information.  The campaign blew this goal out of the water by ultimately engaging nearly four million residents with actionable emergency preparedness education.  These individuals and families are now more prepared and resilient if they are ever confronted by a disaster. The Listos California Impact Report and corresponding Innovations for Equity in Disaster Resilience report share the experience and results of the campaign, and also provide a blueprint and recommendations for how similar equity-focused efforts might be constructed.  All those interested in equity – whether specific to disaster preparedness or in other areas – should scan the report and take what you can to inform future work. The strategies employed and lessons learned serve as fodder for those interested in actively engaging populations that have too frequently been overlooked.

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Alan Lange is Valley Vision’s Director of Production, and project lead for Valley Vision’s contributions to the Listos California campaign.