Woman makes emergency preparedness a family affair

By Manny Otiko  

Contributing Writer

SACRAMENTO — California is often admired for its beautiful weather.

But the Golden State is also susceptible to natural disasters because of the frequency of earthquakes, landslides, forest fires, super storms, flooding and intense heat, particularly in its desert regions.

According to Gov. Gavin Newsom, severe flooding resulted in more than 200,000 California homes and businesses being left without power in 2023.

To help families prepare for disasters, the California Office of Emergency Services has launched the Listas program, an informational campaign featuring women from different racial and ethnic backgrounds, teaching other women how to prepare for natural disasters. The initiative includes 70 videos created to be shared online.

Launched in March, the campaign was promoted during a press conference hosted by California Black Media and Ethnic Media Services earlier this month.

Shayla Happi Amenra-Warmsley, who is Black, an educator and mother of two, is featured in a Listas video talking about planning for extreme weather.

Amenra-Warmsley, said participating in a video for emergency planning made her think about what she needs to do for her family during a natural disaster. In her video, she pointed out to her daughter that cell phones won’t work in an emergency. That’s why it is important to have a list of emergency contacts. 

Amenra-Warmsley also said nowadays most people don’t memorize phone numbers because everything is saved on their phones.

She said being involved in this project made her realize how important it is to teach loved ones about emergency planning and preparing to deal with difficult situations. This is one of the skills she teaches her students. 

“I not only educate my students academically but also teach them lifelong skills of resiliency, emerging from any storm as a stronger version of themselves. Learning how to prepare for emergencies is at the heart of that,” said Amenra-Warmsley. 

Diana Crofts-Pelayo, assistant director of crisis communication and public affairs for the California Office of Emergency Services, said the Listas campaign uses women as opinion leaders because they are often the drivers of information in their families.

“These are women who bear the weight of responsibility making ends meet while taking care of children or elderly parents, while the messengers are first- or second-generation women helping support their families within the unit,” Crofts-Pelayo said.

The Listas campaign has conducted than 400,000 calls to motivate people to sign up for emergency weather alerts.

In the videos, women share steps to prepare for an emergency such as: 

• Creating a “go bag.” This would include ID documents, such as birth certificates, driver’s licenses, passports, cash, wallets and phone chargers.  

• Preparing for an extended stay at home. This includes having water, batteries and non-perishable foods saved.

 • Creating a list of family phone numbers. This should be printed out, in case phones are nonfunctional because of lack of power.  

• And having a family plan to meet at a different location.

“We saw that women over the age of 18, mostly in Latino, [Asian Pacific] and Black communities, are the ones that would listen to our message, pass it on and actually use it during an emergency,”  Crofts-Pelayo said.

Assemblywoman Stephanie Nguyen, D-Sacramento, is also featured in a video. She said it was important to have people from diverse ethnic backgrounds in the campaign. 

“When disaster comes, it affects everybody across communities, and seeing different women talk from their cultures about having go-bags ready, batteries charged, water for washing and drinking — women across communities can think, ‘If she’s doing this, I should be doing this in my home as well,’” Nguyen said. 

Manny Otiko is a reporter for California Black Media.