The Town of Rolling Hills Block Captain Program, a local organization that connects neighbors with first responders during emergencies such as wildfires or earthquakes, has won a nationwide award. State.
The League of California Cities presented the city with the Helen Putnam Award in the category âExcellence in Enhancing Public Confidence, Ethics and Community Involvementâ.
The league awards 12 awards each year in categories ranging from community engagement to health and wellness programs, according to a press release from the League of California Cities.
The Helen Putnam Award for Excellence program was established in 1982 and recognizes the outstanding achievements of 482 cities in California. The aim of the program is to encourage municipal governments to innovate, according to the press release. This year’s winners were chosen from 125 entries.
In a telephone interview on Tuesday, Senior Block Captains Arlene and Gene Honbo, who have lived in Rolling Hills since 1988, said there were around 45 volunteers in the program.
The program, which started about 10 years ago, fell apart, said Arlene Honbo, but was revived in 2019 by Rolling Hills City director Elaine Jeng.
âThis organization is really trying to test how residents can work with first responders, the city and our community association (Rolling Hills) in an emergency,â said Arlene Honbo.
âOne of our biggest concerns is forest fires,â said Gene Honbo.
In 2019, the Block Captain Program worked with the city, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, and the Los Angeles Fire Department to help develop the Rolling Hills Community Wildfire Protection Plan.
âThis has enabled us to get grants where we can get government and state funding to start managing vegetation in the city,â said Gene Honbo.
The entire Palos Verdes peninsula is designated a âvery high fire risk areaâ by the State Department of Forestry and Fire Protection. The Honbos help coordinate with various Block Captains who are spread across the city in 24 areas or wards.
The block captain’s job is to mobilize neighbors and help them prepare for an emergency while serving as a liaison between the city and first responders in a crisis.
âWe have meetings every two months for the block captains and they in turn have a meeting once a year with their zones,â said Gene Honbo.
Sheriff’s Department Captain Jim Powers said the Honbo “took the bull by the horns” with their fire safety concerns and became proactive in recruiting their neighbors for the Block Captain program.
âThey have reached out to different communities, such as Malibu and others that have experienced major catastrophic fires,â Powers said. “They are taking a very proactive stance to prepare.”
Powers said the community meetings, in turn, helped educate the sheriff’s department.
âWe learned a lot about their needs and expectations, and they learned from us what to be, how to prepare and what to prepare for,â said Powers.
Another goal of the Block Party program has been “house hardening”, which prepares a house for a potential fire. In October, the program holds meetings on evacuation procedures, according to Arlene Honbo.
The Block Captain program also helped help those in need during the pandemic.
âWe used the Block Captain Network to contact residents who may be locked in or need help,â said Arlene Honbo.