Category Archives: Blogs



Hello! I’m Your Energy Manager

By Michael Denevan, Program Manager, Your Energy Manager
Senior Project Manager, SmartLights

If you’re someone who pays the utility bills at home, you may have learned to take simple measures (like turning the heat down or weatherstripping doors) to reduce your energy consumption. Many large commercial facilities have a full-time Energy Manager to oversee the building’s energy and HVAC systems. But what about smaller businesses who can’t afford to pay someone to take care of their energy system?

Beginning this month, CESC’s Your Energy Manager program can help small- and medium-sized businesses get a handle on the amount of energy they are using—and the amount they are paying for utilities.

To qualify, businesses must have an energy demand of less than 200 kilowatts of electricity, which is significant but not huge. As a comparison, most homes have a demand of about 4-6 kilowatts of electricity, and a small restaurant might need 10-15 kilowatts. After a successful pilot project that ended in August of last year, we’re relaunching the program now.

Our First Customer

We’re starting with a small business of a type that may be familiar to a lot of you–a motel. This El Cerrito-based business uses a fair amount of energy to light, heat, and cool motel rooms. After analyzing their current energy usage for lighting, we installed over 400 new energy-efficient bulbs, LED A-19 lamps for their rooms and exterior walkways. This single switch could save them 11,169 kwH per year. 

After examining usage for HVAC (heating, ventilation, and air conditioning), we also installed new wireless thermostats and controls for 30 PTAC (packaged terminal air conditioner) units. PTAC units are the all-in-one small heating and air conditioning units that you see under the window in motels and hotels. We installed occupancy/sleep sensor controls; these sophisticated controls work slightly differently from simple motion sensors. They sense when the room is occupied, even if the occupants are sleeping. These devices allow the PTAC units to turn off automatically when the room is not occupied, saving motels a lot of energy.

YEM

YEM provides a comprehensive solution for businesses that can go beyond rebates; it might include HVAC improvements and analysis of larger systems. For example, if we see that a business’s compressor is inefficient and needs a tune-up, but there’s not a rebate available for a new one, the program can still recommend maintenance or replacement and can project  the energy savings. YEM is a smart complement to CESC’s program SmartLights, which focuses on energy savings that can be achieved through measures that qualify for a rebate, typically lighting.

For YEM projects, CESC provides free auditing and consultation. The customer pays for parts and installation minus the rebate, which in some cases covers the entire cost. In those cases, CESC will enlist the SmartLights program to act as a project manager and provide quality assurance.

My Favorite Part of the Job

My favorite part of the job is interacting with customers, especially after the work has been done. I like seeing how the work has improved the business’s lighting and space, and of course I like the energy savings. At the beginning of the project, we give the client a rather abstract picture of what will happen: “This is what you will likely experience.” The actual results, which are so tangible, are very satisfying.

Saving Energy in Surprising Places

Something many small businesses can benefit from is maintenance of their rooftop air handling units. These units, as you might expect from their name, control the air that goes into and comes out of the building. Typically, the temperature of exhaust is closer to the desired temperature than the new air being pulled in (which is either too hot or too cold). A device on the unit called an economizer can help the system save energy by recirculating some of the ventilated air while maintaining enough fresh air for health needs. Yet on most systems the economizer breaks after just a few years, and the building occupants are not aware of this malfunction and the energy that is being wasted.

Through YEM, we can replace these economizers and install more advanced controls. It’s a chance to fix and enhance the system for a low cost, or sometimes no cost at all, if the measures qualify for rebates.

Do you know a business that might benefit from an analysis of their energy usage? Contact CESC’s Your Energy Manager program.

 

The Hidden Hazard in the Home for Seniors

By Janet Stephens

The prospect of an older relative taking a serious fall can be a legitimate cause for worry. The CDC reports that each year, more than one out of four seniors falls (more than one in three, according to the National Institute on Aging), and one out of five falls causes a serious injury. More likely to fall than younger adults, seniors also have a more difficult time recovering from falls. Indeed, hip fractures set the stage for a whole host of activities detrimental to the senior’s health. It’s best to stay securely on one’s feet, and walk into the doctor’s office for regular check-ups!

Prevention is the best medicine: reduce fall hazards ahead of time.

What are possible causes of trips? According to the National Institute on Aging, common fall hazards include:

* a slick floor
* a poorly lit stairway
* loose rugs
* clutter on the floor or stairs
* carrying heavy or bulky things up or down stairs
* lack of stair railings
* lack of grab bars in the bathroom

Some of this information cuts close to home. My own mother fell in her home, ended up in the hospital, then moved to nursing facilities–and she never returned to her own home. The fall exacerbated her poor health and accelerated her death.

Until recently, my dad lived in a well-designed retirement home in Seattle, where it is evident that they’ve thought about all of these hazards. The floors are carpeted, everything is well lit, the common areas are uncluttered, there are well-situated elevators, the stairs all have sturdy railings, and there are grab bars and pull-cord alarms in every resident’s bathroom. Yet about one month ago, my dad took a fall in his apartment, hit his head, and ended up on the floor. Confusion meant that he didn’t pull the cord alarm, but instead walked down to the front desk. Now he’s in a skilled nursing facility trying to recover.

So I do wonder about those seniors who lack resources and don’t have family nearby to help them. Luckily, there’s CESC’s Home Repair Program, available to qualifying residents of Berkeley, unincorporated areas of Contra Costa County, and Oakland. It’s like having a handy son-in-law nearby—one with a day job in construction!

The CESC team begins by inspecting the home for safety. The team looks at the exterior, kitchen, bathroom, bedrooms, and common living areas. In every area, the team is thinking about many different kinds of hazards, but especially about fall hazards. According to Gregory Clark, CESC’s Construction Services Manager, “Delayed maintenance and improper installation are the main culprits I’ve personally seen. Ragged carpet on stairs, hand railing mounts secured to nothing more than plaster or Sheetrock, bad lighting—the list is endless.”  

* Exterior
Is there a walkway, stair, or ramp? If so, are the steps in good condition, and are the risers even? Are there sturdy hand railings? Is there lighting for the stairs?

* Kitchen
Is the floor surface even and in good repair?

* Bathroom
Is the floor in good repair, and are any rugs adhered securely to the floor? Is there a grab bar in the shower? How about a non-skid surface?

* Bedroom
Is there adequate floor space for mobility, and is the floor space clear of hazards? Is the lighting from the bedroom to the bathroom adequate?

* Common living areas
Are there accumulated belongings blocking throughways? Do electrical cords pose a trip risk? Are interior stairs level, not slippery, and in good condition?

After CESC provides repairs, clients typically describe a sense of relief and of empowerment at the improved state of their homes. These repairs and education mean a greater sense of well-being that living in a safe and well-maintained home can provide. Here is what some clients from the Home Repair Program have to say:

“It feels good to know that you checked out all of my functions and brought me up to health and safety regulations. I just feel safer!”

“You made such a big difference on the comfort and safety that I feel now.”

“[CESC] put in something for us to hold onto as we go down the steps because we are slowly losing our balance. Because it’s easy to fall down at our age, we gotta be very careful. . . .I am hoping and praying that they continue to have this program. . . I recommend anyone that’s low-income to this service, because it’s very helpful.”  

Could you or someone you know benefit from this program? Contact CESC, or help us spread the word by sharing this blog.

 

 

East Bay Energy Watch 2017

 

Hitting the Ground Running

On Tuesday, February 28th, the new East Bay Energy Watch program launched, a partnership between CESC and DNV GL to offer businesses in Alameda and Contra Costa Counties opportunities to install energy efficiency upgrades while receiving technical assistance, project management and rebates.

DNV GL offices were packed with electrical contractors as well as PG&E, MCE Clean Energy, local government and program staff at the contractor training; they met to discuss best practices for the New Year. Although the program launched only recently, it already has many customers who have received lighting upgrades to LEDs, and many more installation projects in the pipeline.

 

History of Success

Previously, East Bay Energy Watch was the name for one of 21 local government partnerships between PG&E, local municipalities, and energy efficiency programs. EBEW programs and services are funded by California utility ratepayers under the auspices of the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC). The East Bay partnership was the first in California, beginning with PG&E’s partnership with first just the City of Oakland before expanding to all of Alameda and Contra Costa Counties.  

CESC’s SmartLights program began work in Berkeley in 1998, expanding to neighboring cities in 2000. DNV GL’s BEST program began work in Oakland in 2002. In 2004 with funding from PG&E, SmartLights and BEST began offering services to small businesses in all of Alameda and Contra Costa County. The programs each had their own geographic territory, which reduced direct competition and allowed a complementary relationship to develop over the years.

SmartLights and BEST are based on different program models. SmartLights has energy assessors who provide turn-key services and start-to-finish support for small businesses. BEST works primarily with electrical contractors, providing them with the resources they need to market energy efficiency retrofits and deliver large energy savings. Yet both models have been highly successful – together SmartLights and BEST have saved local businesses more than 200,000 megawatt hours over the last 15 years in the East Bay!

 

 

For 2017, BEST and SmartLights programs are bringing their strengths together to form a single program, East Bay Energy Watch. For local businesses and contractors this collaboration will mean:  

 * One program offering throughout Alameda and Contra Costa County
* Streamlined and simplified paperwork for projects
* The ability to work with both DNV GL engineers and SmartLights energy assessors 
* Fast processing of rebates

Providing rebates and technical assistance for lighting retrofits, commercial refrigeration motors and controls, as well as heating, ventilation and air condition controls, EBEW is the new one-stop shop for businesses to take control of their energy use, reduce their costs, and improve operations.

Do you know a business that could use help with a lighting or motor upgrade, or is interested in learning about how they can be more energy efficient?

Contact EBEW today!  
(800) 576-6405
East Bay Energy Watch

Verde Elementary School Sees the Light

Energy Conservation Program Manager Julio Arroyo is always looking for ways to save energy for the West Contra Costa Unified School District. When Julio found an opportunity to implement a major lighting retrofit at Verde Elementary School with the help of the SmartLights Program, he knew taking the opportunity was the right decision.

Verde Elementary is a K-6 school in North Richmond situated on 8 acres of land, with an enrollment of about 320 students. On the school’s website, Principal Eric Acosta-Verprauskus describes the environment as “a collaborative network of thinkers focused on high achievement and embracing the whole child so that students grow academically and socially in a safe and positive environment to become college graduates, leaders, and lifelong learners.” CESC has collaborated in the past with Verde Elementary via the Family Sustainability Project. The school has been a destination of the Prescott-Joseph Center’s Breathmobile ®, which refers clients to our Healthy Homes Program.

Next it was time for CESC to help improve the school’s energy efficiency. The SmartLights Program performed a lighting assessment for the school and put together a detailed report outlining the projected cost, rebate and energy savings of the project, as well as the recommended lighting replacement measures. Contractors then came in and installed the lights to specifications, with the school receiving an up-front rebate to reduce the cost. Now, the school has replaced its fluorescent lights with new, energy-efficient lighting in its gym, classrooms, and library. The exterior and parking lot lighting was also replaced, a change which Julio explained “adds an element of safety for our maintenance staff that we didn’t have before.”

Julio Arroyo showing off new library lighting at Verde Elementary School

When you tour the newly lit school grounds, the impact of the bright, uniform lighting is immediately clear. Julio was particularly pleased with the new look of the library, which the lights show off to great effect.

 

Julio appreciated the instant rebates that SmartLights offered, which “allowed us to put more energy efficiency measures into place.” Thanks to the new, efficient lighting system, the school will now save an estimated $13,766 per year on its energy costs, a win for the district and a win for students.

Do you know of a school or business that could benefit from an energy upgrade? Contact SmartLights now!

The Power of Relentless Optimism

By Martin Bond, CESC Executive Director

On January 20, 2017, President Donald J. Trump took office, while activists here in California organized protests and marches against his administration in which huge crowds participated.

I believe him a remarkably poor fit for the office of president. I am against most of his policies, his lack of empathy, and his hate-filled tirades in speeches and on Twitter. As someone who works with vulnerable communities and encourages clean energy, I find President Trump is in direct contradiction to what I do and talk about every day.  It would be easy to give up and give in to despair and fear. I will not. I have faith in the American people to not give in to an autocrat. I choose to take a positive view; change can be effected by a focused, relentless effort to make an impact towards a better world.

As President Trump said himself, we cannot be all talk and no action. Complaining about his policies to other like-minded friends doesn’t help. Protests, marches, and complaints are important, yet alone they will not effect change in him, or the world. I as an individual, and we as a community, can do more than just talk.

We can act by:

* Leading by example to support the very groups coming under attack: immigrants, Muslims, women, and people of color.  We need to protect those most vulnerable among us, because once it is OK to hurt them, who will be next?

* Continuing to combat climate change through our choices in: transportation, (electric vehicles, bikes, mass transit), purchasing energy (renewable sources, purchasing ‘green energy’ from our utilities), and how we live (buying local, participating in our communities). Climate change is an existential threat to our civilization, and we can still make an impact with the choices we make toward reducing greenhouse gas emissions.  

* Taking control of our attitudes and choices we make every day. We can choose to see the good in our neighbors, the humanity in immigrants escaping violence, and the opportunities in the challenges we are facing today.

* Joining groups and communities of like-minded individuals to effect change in the world.

I need to be strong and not lose myself into despair or apathy. I can make a difference and build a better future. However, I have to act. One by one, first in small groups, then in large, we will build a community to fight for a better world.

I will remember to have gratitude for the good parts of my life, my family, my friends, and this great organization I am fortunate enough to be a part of.

I know these times, this administration, and this president are not permanent. Policies being made right now can be overturned and will not affect us forever. The actions of this president are not normal behavior, and many people are fighting against his recent policies.

I have work to do. We will get through these tough times. We will get through it, together.

Good News for Oakland Home Repair

 

Community Energy Services Corporation is pleased to announce that the Callison Foundation and the Wells Fargo Foundation have made new grants in support of CESC’s Oakland Home Repair program for 2017. The Oakland Home Repair Program brings needed home repair services to Oakland seniors. Several individual donors also gave in support of the program in 2017, and the Partnership Foundation, a current funder, also renewed its support.

In Alameda County, 45,000 housing units have moderate to severe physical problems (Alameda County Healthy Homes Department). Many Oakland residents lack the knowledge, strength or resources to make needed repairs or to hire a contractor to do the work, especially seniors on fixed incomes who may additionally be wary of strangers coming to their homes.  According to the Alameda County Community Development Agency, “As the number of seniors living in substandard conditions continues to climb in the City of Oakland it is imperative that we address the need for seniors to age in place.” Maricela Foster, Director of the agency, calls CESC’s Oakland Home Repair program an “exceedingly needed service.”

Oakland Construction Tech Jesús Ávila prepares for a kitchen repair

Served by a skilled and seasoned home repair team, the program made health and safety repairs for 17 senior households in 2015 and 12 in 2016 for a total of several hundred individual repairs. Repairs can include most types of plumbing, electrical and carpentry repairs, furnace and minor roof repairs, and the installation of safety features such as grab bars, handrails, and ramps.

“Oakland Home Repair is one of my favorite programs because I love to see seniors in my neighborhood getting the help they need for the home that they have worked so hard for,” says Program Assistant Jennifer Robles. Are you an Oakland senior who needs help with repairs? Contact Jennifer today to find out how to enroll in the Oakland Home Repair program.

Email: jennifer@ebenergy.org

CESC Supports Green-Collar Jobs, Part Two

Last week, we told you a bit about the role Community Energy Services Corporation plays in workforce development locally, and we profiled Bill Pittman, former construction intern with CESC’s Family Sustainability Project. The Family Sustainability Project has two parts: it helps low-income North Richmond residents through home renovation and other asthma environmental remediation services, and it brings workforce development to that neighborhood through internships. Over the past three years, twelve interns from North Richmond have worked alongside CESC staff to bring these asthma environmental remediation services to North Richmond. Along the way, they have acquired new skills while getting paid, received job-seeking support, and came away with a laptop computer.

Family Sustainability Project Intern Spotlight
In the summer of 2016, intern Anthony Williams of Richmond had just graduated with an AA degree in business administration from Contra Costa College when he heard about the opportunity for a paid administrative internship with CESC’s Family Sustainability Project. Anthony was interested in building up his admin skills.

CESC Administrative Intern Anthony Williams

CESC Administrative Intern Anthony Williams

As a CESC intern Anthony has gained those admin skills, and then some. He has learned the database for CESC’s residential programs, provided customer follow-up via letters and calls, and assisted in other clerical duties including filing and organizing. He’s pleased that he has beefed up his software skills. He’s learned most of Microsoft Office, especially Excel. He has also done client outreach, attended outreach events, and learned office etiquette.

Now 26 years old, Anthony started community college in Vallejo right after high school, but he was unmotivated and dropped out.  Anthony then had a number of part-time retail jobs, working at places like Walmart, Target, Starbucks, and Macy’s. He usually had at least two jobs at one time. Sometimes his work day went from 5 a.m. to 10 p.m. This situation was highly motivating for him. He knew he had to get an education if he wanted a better work situation. He moved to Richmond and enrolled in Contra Costa College, where he got an introduction to business, office skills, and how to work with people and groups.

Anthony was thrilled to get a paid internship after graduating, and he admits that it isn’t what he thought it would be. “I thought an internship would be unpaid. I thought I’d have to fetch coffee for the boss and water for the dogs. Instead, I feel like I’m one of the team here.” Since his internship is part time, it allows him to take classes at San Francisco State University, where he hopes to get a B.S. degree in management.

While he’s happy about the skills he is gaining in his internship, he loves the overall purpose of the organization (Anthony is featured in a video about working at CESC). He likes that CESC is helping low-income people get safer and healthier homes and save energy.

“I also like the management here and everyone we work with,” a situation that he admits tends to be uncommon. “Managers are very flexible and understanding. They act as mentors or coaches. If you have a problem, they’ll be with you every step of the way to help you solve the problem. And what you do doesn’t go unseen. The management here definitely let you know that what you’re doing is appreciated.”

Anthony hopes to continue in nonprofit work, ideally at CESC if an opportunity comes up. Do you want to learn more about CESC? check us out at ebenergy.org.

 

CESC Supports Green-Collar Jobs

Businesses need a trained workforce, and local residents need jobs. Community Energy Services Corporation (CESC) has an important role to play locally in bringing jobs—and training for good jobs—to people in the community. For over 10 years, CESC has had programs offering paid internships in the energy efficiency and home repair fields to people starting out or starting over.

Take for example CESC’s Family Sustainability Project in North Richmond. For the past three years, a total of twelve interns from that community have taken part in paid internships working alongside CESC staff members to help low-income North Richmond residents through home renovation and other asthma environmental remediation services.

Workforce development organizations like CESC partner Rising Sun Energy Center can help people remove barriers to employment and acquire skills that can get them their first job. CESC’s role is in the next step; CESC helps people go a bit further. According to Executive Director Martin Bond, “Many staff members have been hired from green workforce development programs at Laney College or Rising Sun.” The next step is to provide interns and new employees opportunities for on-the-job training for various marketable skills. You can become LEED-certified, you can become an energy manager, you can become a building operator, you can go into the trades with a focus on energy efficiency, or you can learn electrician or general contractor skills. You can learn not just how to install energy efficiency products, but also how to verify savings. You can learn about building shells, insulation, air sealing, or HVAC. These are skills that can lead into good-paying jobs.

Past interns at CESC have gone on to full-time jobs elsewhere, sometimes even at CESC itself, and sometimes internships clarify educational goals for people. CESC provides interns support in getting the next job or applying to school. Of the eleven interns in the Family Sustainability Project, five now have full-time jobs in the area, and four have gone on to college.

Family Sustainability Project: Intern Spotlight

CESC Construction Technician Bill Pittman

Former intern (and now employee) Bill Pittman of Richmond first heard about an opportunity for a paid internship in construction with CESC when a cousin told him about it in 2015. At the time, he had been unemployed for two years and was getting by doing odd jobs landscaping and other things. Bill, 52, is a high school graduate, but he wasn’t making it. He felt discouraged and worried that because he had been getting older and was “down so long” that he might never get up. He was homeless, he was couch surfing, and he wanted a steady job. So he applied for the internship, and he was accepted.

As a construction intern with CESC’s Family Sustainability Project, which combines a health and safety home repair program benefiting North Richmond with a workforce development program in the same neighborhood, Bill gained hands-on experience with plumbing repairs, carpet removal and hardwood floor installation, general carpentry, and house painting.

At first, Bill made it to work every day catching the bus from North Richmond. At the time, he had neither a driver’s license nor a car. After four months, CESC was so impressed with Bill’s progress and positive attitude that they offered him a full-time job as a construction technician, and he gladly accepted. Now he drives to work every day in his own car and has a real home in Richmond.

Since his internship days, he has continued to acquire new skills. He has learned how to install gas appliances and test them for carbon monoxide, how to test heating duct systems for leaks and how to repair them, how to install plumbing fixtures such as toilets, and how to interact with clients. His current goal is to continue to gain additional plumbing skills and to improve in all aspects of the job.

Bill now spends most of his time working with clients of Residential Energy Efficiency Services. Sometimes he also helps Jesús Ávila with the Home Repair program, the work he likes to do most because he loves helping the elderly. It makes him feel good. And “Jesús is a great mentor; he has taught me a lot.” Bill also has a lot of positive things to say about his training and his current supervision. “We have some outstanding bosses. They help you in all kinds of ways. The bosses here are patient and understanding. They work with you if you have a special situation.”

Bill is immensely grateful for the opportunity he has found at CESC to rejoin the workforce. After being down so long, he says that “now I feel that I can go a little higher.” He loves that he now has a home and a car and can afford doing things with his children and grandchildren.

Look for a spotlight on intern Anthony Williams next week.

 

Society of St Vincent de Paul Shines a New Light

Executive Director Melanie Anguay at the Society's thrift store

Executive Director Melanie Anguay at the Society’s thrift store

The Society of St Vincent de Paul in Pittsburg needed help last year with their building’s lighting. Dark corners and inconsistent exterior lighting compromised the facility’s safety, and the lighting inside had been replaced haphazardly over the years, making for a hodge-podge of different lighting types and color temperatures throughout the building.

“For us, lights equal safety,” Executive Director Melanie Anguay explained. With children on site in the daytime shelter, it was especially important to illuminate every dark corner in the building, and strong exterior lighting was needed to ensure that community members felt safe coming to the site for services. The on-site free health clinic also needed better lights for the healthcare professionals to do their work in.

When the Society added 400 square feet and needed to outfit the new space with energy-efficient lighting, they decided to take this opportunity to retrofit all of the center’s lights. Yet the Society needed help executing a large-scale lighting project. “We don’t have a facilities manager,” Melanie explained, “so things like this are hard to implement on our own.” CESC’s SmartLights program came to the rescue and helped the Society complete the project from start to finish, with a project manager to count the lights and suggest replacements and create a report to show the projected cost and energy savings.

Initially, Melanie was skeptical that the SmartLights program was for real. “It seemed too good to be true,” she explained. However, after exploring our website and reading stories of people we’ve helped, Melanie decided to move forward with the lighting project.

Melanie with St Vincent de Paul staff under the new lights

Once the project was approved, SmartLights replaced 121 fixtures with efficient LEDs, improving the facility’s lighting and saving the nonprofit over $300 a month on energy bills. SmartLights also provided a rebate to offset the cost.

Melanie was impressed with the contractor’s commitment to providing lighting that met the Society’s needs; he “helped us find the right lighting for our building,” she said. Melanie was also impressed with the HVAC services she received. “[The contractor] was professional and explained things clearly. I don’t have any HVAC experience, but thanks to [the contractor’s] explanation I was able to understand the purpose of the equipment. He even let me watch him install the controller. That was a fun learning experience that I’ve never had the opportunity to do in the past!” From a cost standpoint, Melanie was able to present the detailed, readable SmartLights report to her board with the return-on-investment figures, or ROI, right on the front page.

Nurse treats patient in the brightly lit exam rooms

Nurse treats patient in the brightly lit exam rooms

Touring the St Vincent de Paul facilities, Melanie pointed out the many changes to their facility thanks to the new lights. The exterior of the building is now well lit, as are the medical examination rooms, the thrift store warehouse, the dining room, and the offices. “It’s nice to know that there are no dark corners,” she says. Melanie is happy she found us: “There are so few companies that provide this type of service. Your organization went above and beyond.”

 

New Year’s Resolution: Earthquake Home Safety

By Janet Stephens

Are you worried about your family’s safety during an earthquake? You’re not alone. Earlier this year, I was inspired by Martin Bond’s blog about the “big one” to start thinking about what more I could do to stay safe during an earthquake. Ten years ago, I had my home bolted and braced, and I added shear wall in two rooms, since we were renovating anyway. Those were the right things to do to reduce the risk of major damage to the home itself, but what about its contents–mainly, me, my husband, and our cats?

go-bucket-image-1I promised my husband I would set up an emergency survival kit with water, food, and some first aid supplies. That was three months ago, and I haven’t gotten started yet. Until today, that is. I knew that I needed to break the task of earthquake preparation into smaller chunks. So I downloaded a document called “Preparing the Home Activity Guide” from the City of Berkeley web site, which has eight different activities to make a home safer in a disaster.

The first activity I am going to tackle is #2, “Put a flashlight and a pair of shoes where each person sleeps.” We have several flashlights, and it will be easy to put a flashlight in the top drawer of my night stand. It’s a simple measure that will take me just a few minutes. I’m aiming to take one measure each day between now and the New Year.

I can also already check off activity #7, “Inspect your water heater.” I know that our heater is already strapped to the wall, a measure that was required during our home renovation.

I think the most difficult measure for me is going to be #6, “Remove falling hazards over beds and play areas.” I heard that falling hazards are the biggest cause of injury during an earthquake. We have eight-foot-tall bookshelves in several rooms, and I know they’re not attached to the wall. I’m a klutz with a hammer or screwdriver. Luckily, my husband is very handy, and he can help with this. But what about those families that lack a handy person?

bookshelf-safetyThe answer: Berkeley Seismic Safety services from Community Energy Services (CESC). A licensed contractor, CESC can provide you with all the services you need to make your home safe in an earthquake. A small grant from PG&E and the City of Berkeley’s Fire Department are helping CESC offer these services free to Berkeley households, whether they are renters or owners. “Preparing your home for an earthquake could prevent many injuries and should be a part of every household’s plan. Through the City’s Berkeley Ready program, we’re partnering with our community to look at potential hazards in the home and to mitigate those before an earthquake,” according to David Brannigan, Deputy Fire Chief.

The program includes a preliminary assessment; a “go bucket” or emergency kit containing a fire extinguisher, emergency rechargeable flashlight, an emergency radio, and other items, a strong educational component including educational materials, and seismic safety upgrades such as securing large furniture, book cases, water heaters, and picture frames and mirrors to the wall.

The program will be able to serve about ten households without charge. If you’re not among the first 10 households to qualify for free services, you can still pay a reasonable fee and have the security of knowing you’re hiring experts to help make your home safe.

And that earthquake survival kit I promised my husband? I don’t think that will take very long. According to the Preparing the Home Activity Guide, I already have most of the supplies on hand; I just need to gather them and put them in an old backpack or bucket. Some of the items are a surprise: copies of important documents, photocopies of prescriptions, an extra pair of eyeglasses. I’m glad I downloaded the document.

Want to know more about the Seismic Safety Services and how you can get help preparing? Contact CESC.