Tag Archives: natural disasters

One805 Four Years Later, Nonprofit Continues to Kick Ash

Everybody in town likely knows about One805. Sure, they’re the organization who three years ago created the “Kick Ash Bash,” mounting the massive benefit concert as a way of thanking both the firefighters whose brave stand against the Thomas Fire in December 2017 saved untold homes in Montecito, as well as honoring the already weary first responders who had barely had a break before having to jump once more into the fray to help rescue many Montecito neighbors when a 100-year storm flooded the burnt hillside resulting in the devastating debris flow a few weeks later. 

The day-night celebration in late February brought out the Goleta-born/Montecito resident turned international pop star Katy Perry and a whole host of other celebrities with connections to the area. Brief speeches from the likes of Montecito residents Dennis Miller, Ellen DeGeneres, Jimmy Connors, and Jane Seymour, plus fire chiefs and other first responders delivered during set changes for musical performances by Kenny Loggins, Alan Parsons, Katharine McPhee, Richard Marx, Wilson Phillips, Glen Phillips, Dishwalla, David Foster, and more. The evening “After Bash” was hosted by Academy Award-winning actor Michael Keaton and featured David Crosby and the Sky Trails joined by Iration, Robby Krieger of the Doors, the Caverns, and others. 

But the Bash also had another benefit that went beyond gratitude: raising funds to better equip the first responders to meet natural disasters, as well as offering counseling services and victim relief. So, while scenes from that stirring event still reverberate in our collective memories, what also has had a lingering impact around town is the three custom mobile command units One805 purchased from $2 million in proceeds to donate to the police, fire, and sheriff departments.  

It wasn’t just the gifts that have made a difference, though, explained Angela Binetti Schmidt, the nonprofit’s executive director. 

“The different departments said, this is amazing that we’re all talking and we’re collaborating, and learning from each other,” she said. “They told us they wished it could continue because it makes it easier for all of us to do our jobs better.”

That cemented the idea of turning One805 into an ongoing nonprofit that officially became a 501(c)(3) nonprofit in late 2019, founded by executive committee members Richard Weston-Smith, Eric Phillips, and John J. Thyne. The trio meet periodically with an advisory council consisting of the 11 department heads to field funding requests and collaborate on the decisions of what to allocate. 

Its first full-year grant awards in 2019 included a tactical robot to be shared between the Sheriff’s Special Enforcement Team and the city police SWAT team, as well as a modem for the County Fire Chief’s Association Incident Management Team. 

Three QRET Helicopter Harnesses for the County Sheriff/Fire Air Operations Unit were the biggest items in the 2020 grant awards in February, all meant to fill in the spaces where needed equipment projects can fall through the cracks due to arduous budget processes or other issues. 

“Technology moves so fast, and it’s important that our departments have the equipment and technology to protect public safety,” she said. “And even if they had all the funding in the world, it’s like molasses to get things passed through the budget, which takes a year just to apply. So, if we donate it, they can get it immediately.”

Which leads us to the current grant requests that the One805 board approved in February: a rescue rope system for $3,700; various drones to assist in remote rescues and other emergency situations at a cost of $14,000; purchase of the Rosetta Stone language development program to assist first responders in communicating with non-English speakers for $1,890; the aforementioned face shields and helmets to be used during larger group events involving protests for $5,500; four rescue struts that assist in extrication from vehicles and structures for $11,000; advanced technological products to assist with criminal investigations for $14,500; and a portion of the costs for the helicopter that supports the county first responder agencies for $35,000.

The Thomas Fire and subsequent debris flow in 2018 brought about the need for One805, which continues to raise funds to aid the community with its various needs

Nothing terribly glamorous. But things don’t have to be monumental or cost mega-bucks in order to matter. 

“We have to be conservative because we weren’t able to do our fundraiser in 2020 because of the pandemic, and we wanted to respect the other nonprofits and what’s going on with a lot of donors who have diverted their funds to coronavirus relief,” said Binetti Schmidt. 

“So, it is pretty small, but these things are really impactful. When first responders are interacting with the general public, there’s some language barriers where the program could really make a difference. We found out the face shields matter during the George Floyd protests that turned violent in Santa Maria last summer. And those tech products really help because you can’t have the bad guys having better equipment and better technology than our departments.”  

What makes the current list even more exciting, Binetti Schmidt said, is that the requested items speak to one of One805’s tenets. 

“Collaboration and efficiency really meet our goal of wanting things that we donate to be fully utilized and shared,” she said. 

Take note that One805 is not dormant in between considering the equipment requests from first responder organizations. In fact, in times of crisis, the nonprofit can be something of a first responder itself. 

That’s what happened when COVID came to town. Within a few days of the first lockdown orders in March 2020, One805 – knowing that the official first responders were once again serving on the front lines while the rest of us sheltered at home – immediately began seeking donations of critical supplies including masks, gloves, liquid hand sanitizer, and protective medical clothing to distribute to medical and police, fire and other public safety departments throughout the county. Later they purchased and distributed 45 electronic defoggers for all the departments in the county to help sanitize public spaces and indoor environments to fight COVID.

“As an emergency response organization, we’re on the forefront in collaborating with the departments all over the county because that’s exactly what happened after the debris flow,” said Binetti Schmidt, explaining that having family in Washington State, where the virus first showed up, helped her to know what was coming. 

“That’s why we were created. There are always a lot of missing pieces in bringing the community together and quickly responding.” 

The nascent nonprofit’s nimbleness comes from the experience of its founders – each of whom had spent time previously on the boards of many nonprofits while Binetti Schmidt is the organization’s only paid employee. 

“We brought what we’d learned before into One805,” she explained. “And even before the virus, we were operating mostly virtually.”  

Now, as increased vaccinations are bringing hope of an eventual end to the pandemic, One805 would love to stage another big benefit event for the community, perhaps in the late summer or early fall, Binetti Schmidt. But in the meantime, there’s the $85,000 in approved requests to fulfil.  

“We’re just hoping this article speaks to people and that they are willing to help,” she said. “Maybe they want to underwrite one of the specific requests. Or they have a lead where we can get drones at cost, for example.”

A large donor taking care of all of this year’s latest requests would be dandy. But the gestures don’t have to be grand. In keeping with its mission to unite the community, One805’s memberships start at just $25, and come with swag you can wear proudly around town — or rather will be able to show off in public as the pandemic restrictions continue to ease. 

But no matter what happens with COVID or whatever nature has in mind for us next, One805 will be ready to support our first responders in keeping us safe, Binetti Schimdt said. 

“If there’s a need that arises, we want to do what we can.”

From Rescued to Rescuer

When the debris flow hit Montecito on January 9, 2018, Riley was ready. 

Having been deployed to the tsunami in Japan and a devastating earthquake in Nepal, Riley and his partner, a Santa Barbara County fire captain named Eric Gray, search for survivors amid the scenes of unbelievable chaos. 

Unlike Gray, Riley is a yellow lab, who was too rambunctious for the family that had adopted him. The pair was one of 18 National Disaster Search Dog Foundation (SDF) teams working the devastating aftermath of the debris flow in Montecito. 

That Riley and his fellow canines are so exceptional is no surprise given the impressive nonprofit organization that does their training. SDF was founded in 1996 by Wilma Melville, a FEMA-Certified canine handler who worked the Oklahoma City Bombing where 168 people lost their lives. 

Melville quietly made a commitment to train 168 search dog teams for every one of those victims, a goal recently achieved by the organization. 

To get there, Melville and her successors, including current CEO George Haynes, built a 125-acre training center in the mountains of Santa Paula. Board Chair George Leis calls it a “simulated search city,” replete with a downed airplane, derailed train, and replicas of buildings torn apart by earthquakes, tornadoes, and hurricanes. 

It is here that dogs like Riley go through an intensive eight-to-twelve-month training ahead of the stringent FEMA or state certification process.

During the debris flow, 13 of the teams stayed overnight at the Santa Paula campus, turning it from a place to train for future disasters, to a staging area for an unfolding one.

Beyond preparing search teams for the herculean task of saving lives during disaster and tragedy, the SDF team is also saving dogs from otherwise certain fates.

“Most of our dogs come from shelters,” Haynes, the CEO, says. “These are extremely high-drive, intense dogs. Absent them being rescued, likely they would be euthanized.” 

And once in the SDF family, the organization ensures each dog is cared for through its entire life. 

 In 2019, after 11 years of service, Riley retired and Gray took on another SDF search rescue dog – a Belgian Malinois, aptly named Waffles, who was, himself, a shelter rescue. Now, over the next decade or so, Gray and Waffles will serve Santa Barbara, their country, and the world when called upon to respond in the aftermath of a disaster.

Preparing Everyday for the Worst Day Ever

Kerri Murray, a veteran disaster relief professional, first saw ShelterBox in action in 2010 as Haiti was reeling from a devastating earthquake that killed 250,000 people.

“A million and a half people lost their homes in an instant,” Murray, who now leads ShelterBox USA as its president, says. “ShelterBox was one of the first organizations on the ground in Port-au-Prince, and it was among the largest providers of shelter aid.” 

While deployed to Japan after the devastating earthquake and tsunami, and after super Typhoon Haiyan leveled communities across the Philippines, Murray again witnessed ShelterBox on the frontlines of disaster, providing its iconic green ShelterBoxes, replete with humanitarian relief tents, cooking sets, blankets, water purification, mosquito nets, and solar lights. 

“Whether you are displaced during a disaster, conflict, or now a global pandemic, shelter is one of the most tangible differences you can make in someone’s life,” Murray says. “It is the first step in recovery. And, during this COVID-19 pandemic, home is crucial to our health and well-being.” It is clear, the work of ShelterBox has never been more important than now, and they are scaling up and adapting their efforts to help more people during the pandemic.

For Murray, taking the opportunity to lead the organization in 2015 was a no brainer. “One of the biggest issues plaguing our planet is the massive displacement of people. With more than 104 million people displaced due to conflicts, natural disasters, or by the consequences of climate change, there are more people displaced today than any time in recorded history.” Shelter is an essential human need.

With a U.S. headquarters in Santa Barbara, 17 global offices, a paid staff of 130, and hundreds of highly trained, response-team volunteers being regularly deployed in the world’s hot spots, ShelterBox provides shelter to 250,000 people a year. ShelterBox is Rotary International’s official project partner in disaster relief. Their work to deliver lifesaving shelter in the world’s most extreme conflict zones earned ShelterBox two Nobel Peace Prize nominations in 2018 and 2019. 

But the challenge is mounting at a dizzying clip. Murray recalls giving a speech at the United Nations/Rotary day last year. At that time, the number of displaced stood at 88 million. Within a year it had surged nearly 20%. 

To meet the need, Murray wants to quadruple ShelterBox’s footprint to shelter one million people a year. And while a daunting challenge, she is heartened by her Santa Barbara neighbors, who, unfortunately, know all too well how fast disasters can destroy lives. “We live in a community with an innate drive to give back and make a difference,” Murray says. “There are so many people that care about the work of ShelterBox and believe that shelter is a basic human right. Our supporters want to help people who have lost everything, people they will never meet, but whose lives they can transform.”