WHAT IS THE BOBCAT ON EMERGENCY PREPAREDNESS?
Blumenfield’s BobCAT (Community Action Team) on Emergency Preparedness is led by a committed group of community volunteers with expertise on keeping our community safe when disaster strikes. More than a decade ago, when Blumenfield served in the State Assembly, he brought together folks who shared his passion for emergency preparedness to develop training and protocols for how to better deal with future emergencies. He originally called the group the Valley Public Response for Emergency Preparedness (VPREP), but changed the name when he became a Councilmember and was putting together a series of other issue based Community Action Teams.
This Emergency Preparedness BobCat has grown tremendously in scope and purpose over the last ten years. They have become such an integral part of Blumenfield’s team that they have permanent office space at his district office where they have established an emergency center of operations with everything from HAM radios, to first aid, to rations of all types. And, in the parking lot they have established a secure Volunteer Point of Distribution pod (VPOD) filled with even more goods for any type of emergency that hits. They have also successfully placed VPODs at other key locations around the district and around the City in furtherance of their preparedness mission.
Blumenfield and BobCAT chairs Nathan Wolfstein and Jaime Pelligrini have also been working with groups ranging from the Boy Scouts to Rotary Clubs teaching community members how they can be better prepared as well as working with the City of Los Angeles and surrounding municipalities on disaster preparedness legislation and action.
However, the most impressive feat of the BobCat has to do with the collection, management, storage and distribution of vast amounts of emergency supplies. The BobCat, along with a non-profit arm created by its members, has established warehouses and depot locations where it collects and stores critical supplies for when disaster strikes. They acquire the supplies through donations and they keep them fresh and ready for distribution through bartering and volunteer efforts. They have established a new model for volunteer donations management that FEMA and others have been studying and trying to duplicate.
Blumenfield with his BobCAT leadership in their warehouse during the Saddleridge Fire.
WHAT DOES THE BOBCAT DO DURING A FIRE OR EARTHQUAKE?
The BobCAT assists in several ways- the prep, the immediate aftermath, and the recovery. They work hand in hand with Blumenfield’s staff. In addition to helping residents prepare for emergencies, they are ready to lead and assist the Red Cross, other nonprofits, and governmental agencies moments after a disaster. They have several large warehouses in the West Valley which are now filled with donated and bartered goods ready to be delivered whenever and where ever needed. They have an established nonprofit arm- Community Outreach Promoting Emergency Preparedness (COPE). And now, after several years, their nonprofit is officially contracted to serve the entire city and has even sent supplies to disaster areas around the country.
During the Woolsey Fire in 2018, they successfully deployed existing supplies to evacuation centers within a few hours of those sites opening. They then established a system to collect and distribute over 100,000 pounds of goods including pet foods, diapers, energy bars, canned foods as well as necessities for our firefighters like Visine and sunscreen. Instead of people donating directly to the already chaotic evacuation sites (something the site managers did not want and were not equipped to handle), the BobCat collected the needed goods centrally (at Blumenfield’s office) and distributed exactly what was needed to each site when they needed it and in a manner where it could be effectively managed and distributed. The Woolsey fire response proved the success of the BobCat model.
Many aid workers told Blumenfield’s team that the outpouring of community support was unprecedented and that they were overwhelmed by how much love was showed to neighbors in need. But, if the protocols weren’t in place to collect and get the donations to the evacuees, the effort would not have been successful.
After the Woolsey fire Blumenfield said, “People used to question my sanity for having warehouses full of emergency supplies and a community action team dedicated to keeping the supplies fresh and accessible. While this crisis may not have proved my sanity, it did prove the tremendous value of the BobCAT, its members, and their mission.”
Blumenfield meeting with volunteers and evacuees during the Woolsey Fire.
Inside on of the BobCAT's warehouses.
A truck filled with donated goods ready to go to evacuated Angelenos.
WHAT DOES THE EMERGENCY PREPAREDNESS BOBCAT HAVE TO DO WITH TEACHER GIVE-AWAYS OR HOMELESS GIVE AWAYS?
Councilmember Blumenfield at Teacher School Supplies Giveaway
Because the BobCAT has developed both the capacity and the expertise to accept large shipments of donated merchandise, sometimes opportunities arise to acquire non-emergency merchandise when companies have overstocked, gone out of business or for other reasons. The BobCAT had the opportunity to acquire more than $1 million dollars worth of school supplies at one point which enabled Councilmember Blumenfield to put together a special teacher give-away.
At this give-away the BobCAT partnered with the UTLA and the School District to set up a day of “free shopping” for teachers in the West Valley. They laid out all of the school supplies from the BobCAT’s warehouse in a large parking lot and invited LAUSD teachers to come and take whatever they needed. The supplies included instructional materials, classroom decorations, workbooks, equipment, pencils, and more.
Similarly, sometimes the BobCAT is able to receive truckload of donated supplies that may not be needed for emergency preparedness but can be used to help people in need. In such instances, the BobCAT team breaks down the supplies into more manageable quantities and donates them to appropriate groups that serve the homeless or other people in need. The BobCAT has been able to give pet supplies to rescue groups in the past in a similar manner.