The Cambrian

Volunteer disaster organization to be discussed in Cambria

A VOAD forum will be held April 24, 2018 at the Cambria Veterans Memorial Building.
A VOAD forum will be held April 24, 2018 at the Cambria Veterans Memorial Building.

Should Cambria have a VOAD group (Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster), and if so, who should, can and will help the community plan ahead for disaster preparedness and recovery?

That is at the heart of discussions being hosted from 3 to 5 p.m. Tuesday, April 24, at the Veterans Memorial Building, 1000 Main St.

This free informational forum is the fourth in a series co-sponsored by the Cambria FireSafe Focus Group and the county’s Fire Safe Council.

Anyone who lived through or saw photos of disasters such as the Montecito mudslides or the Thomas Fire, the Chimney Fire, Northern California wildfire complex and Cambria’s 1995 flooding knows what’s at stake.

“This is a crucial session for people who are concerned about what would happen to Cambria and the North Coast in and after a catastrophe, such as wildfire, earthquake, mudslide or other natural disaster,” said Shirley Bianchi, the group’s chairwoman.

“We can make our homes and community safer and better able to survive and recover from tragedy in the future, but to do it, we have to work together now.”

On April 24, speaker Rick London will explain what VOAD is and isn’t, and what should be considered in organizing and operating a community VOAD. He is chairperson for the county’s VOAD ( and CEO of United Way San Luis Obispo County.

Forum organizer Ken Topping of Cambria (senior adviser to the State Hazard Mitigation Plan Support Team, Cal Poly and San Luis Obispo city and county planning departments), will discuss disaster resilience and recovery for an individual, a neighborhood and a community.

Other speakers will focus on previous disasters, both personal and communitywide, the opportunities and challenges of forming a Cambria/North Coast VOAD and what’s next.

For details, email Bianchi at or bring your questions to the forum.

Second meeting

London said interested North Coasters can also attend a SLO VOAD meeting at 2:30 p.m. Wednesday, April 25, in the French Hospital’s Copeland Pavilion’s Auditorium Room, 1911 Johnson Avenue. Michael Kallhoff, president/CEO of United Way of the Wine Country, will talk about what it was like to handle the Sonoma fire disaster without a VOAD.