Best Practices


Mayor Shirley Dean

Seismic Technical Advisory Group

Disaster preparedness and earthquake hazard mitigation are a priority in the City of Berkeley, a city which sits astride of one of California's major earthquake faults. In the last six years, the East Bay region along beautiful San Francisco Bay where Berkeley is located has experienced significant natural disasters involving both earthquakes and major wildfires. As a result, Berkeley residents have chosen to make disaster preparedness a community-wide endeavor. The local electorate has approved over $200 million in bond measures to finance the seismic upgrade of essential public buildings such as schools, fire stations, and emergency police services. Over 20 public buildings in Berkeley are slated for seismic improvements in the next eight years. This is a most progressive seismic hazard abatement program, and it is critical that Berkeley makes prudent and cost-effective decisions about its mitigation strategies. This is not easy because with each major natural disaster, governments learn more about prevention, response and the application of new technology that saves lives, lessens property damage and speeds economic recovery.

In response to this need, the City has convened a panel of internationally acclaimed seismic safety experts associated with the University of California at Berkeley to advise the City Council and the City Manager on the development of a comprehensive seismic safety program. The Seismic Technical Advisory Group will assist the city by reviewing structural evaluations of city-owned buildings; preparing seismic analyses of public hazard mitigation projects; accomplishing peer reviews of mitigation proposals; and outlining an appropriate program for the rehabilitation of private building stock. Further, the group will develop seismic hazard mitigation strategies to ensure the most safe and cost-effective methods are undertaken. The group will examine the necessities for retrofit versus new construction, as well as review the spectrum of innovative approaches to hazard mitigation using the most advanced technological knowledge available in the world.

Working with a group like the Seismic Technical Advisory Group is a bold move for local government. The world-renowned University of California at Berkeley offers a wealth of academic resources to the community. It is sensible for the city to rely on the campus for the technical guidance needed in such a major capital improvement program. Municipal officials will be better prepared to make well-informed decisions on how best to use the city's hazard mitigation moneys.


Calling All Beat Cops

Trained public safety dispatchers are always on duty to take emergency calls on 911 or on the other 24-hour staffed non-emergency general number for the City of Berkeley Police Department. However, as a part of the City's Community Involved Policing Plan, the city has implemented an additional voice mail system for police telephone lines which provides increased access between residents and officers. Residents can now leave a routine message for their neighborhood beat officer if no one is available to take the call.

To leave a message for a specific officer, residents dial a central number using a touch tone phone. The employee's mailbox number is entered, plus the officer's badge number, using the following system:

For Officers/Employees enter 2000 + badge number + # (pound key)
For Sergeants enter 3000 + badge number + #
For Inspectors enter 4000 + badge number + #
For Lieutenants enter 5000 + badge number + #
For Captains enter 6000 + badge number + #

Residents can also obtain current crime trend and crime prevention information by dialing another number from a touch tone phone, listening to the instructions and then dialing their beat number followed by the pound key. After listening to the recorded message, residents may stay on the line and leave their own personal message for ALL OF THE BEAT OFFICERS who work on their beat.

Residents obtain beat numbers and badge numbers whenever they have any personal contact with their neighborhood beat officer, either individually or at crime watch or community meetings. If they don't have those numbers, or have lost them, they can obtain beat numbers and individual badge numbers by dialing a police department number set up for just that purpose.


Coordinated City Services Task Force for Problem Properties

Complaints come in about a blighted house in the hills. Upset neighbors worry about drugs being sold out of the house. Small children are seen ill-clothed and unattended during the day. Garbage and abandoned cars stand in weeds in the front yard. Complaints come in about an apartment unit where screaming arguments startle neighbors awake at 2:00 in the morning. Used hypodermic needles are thrown into neighboring yards and groups of young men seem to be dealing drugs in a dark passage alongside the apartment building. The property is littered with abandoned furniture and garbage.

These are typical cases for the City of Berkeley's Coordinated City Services Task Force (CCSTF), a group which meets on a regular basis and for each problem property custom designs a multi-departmental approach to improve the specific property and solve the problems created by it. Environmental Health and Public Works deal with clean-up of the property, and police officers work on the drug situation. An outside agency might be called to make sure the children are cared for properly.

A joint effort may require the resources of many different city services which cut across departmental lines. These may include Police, Fire, Zoning, Codes and Inspections, Legal, Public Works, and Environmental Health, among others. The city has a Neighborhood Services Liaison who meets regularly with neighborhood groups. The Liaison takes referrals from these groups to the CCSTF for action. Once the problem property is listed with the Task Force, it stays on their agenda until the problems are cleared. By meeting together, all the appropriate departments can focus on the problem and develop a coordinated approach to finding a solution. This is not only effective, it is quicker than if the problem was passed along from department to department.

Contact: Office of the Mayor, (510) 644-6484

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The United States Conference of Mayors

J. Thomas Cochran, Executive Director
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