Thomas Fire Report from Freedom Warming Centers

Freedom Warming Centers are shorter-term emergency shelters that operate (activate) when temperatures or a combination of weather conditions can be life-threatening for individuals, many living with chronic health conditions.

Outside of our normal activation triggers –
Due to poor air quality conditions affecting the city of Santa Barbara the Freedom Warming Centers made the decision to activate the Santa Barbara warming centers.  It was important for us to provide, at some level, respite opportunities for those we serve wanting to escape the smoke and ash filled air.

Except for Christmas Eve, this is the first time in Freedom Warming Centers history we opened a warming center site outside of our normal operating triggers.  

Trinity Episcopal Church and Unitarian Society of Santa Barbara opened their doors allowing the Freedom Warming Centers to provide ‘disaster relief’ activation response services.  

We did not activate our Carpinteria or Isla Vista warming center locations.  Individuals needing a place to go/stay in those two areas were directed to the Red Cross evacuation centers set-up in Isla Vista and in Carpinteria.

Nights activated, and numbers served –
The Freedom Warming Centers provided twelve nights of ‘disaster relief’ services.  During this period, on average, 44 individuals per night accessed the Freedom Warming Centers.  (85% were men, 15% women)  

Our guests were provided face masks, a hot meal, and a place to sleep indoors for the night.

Getting the word out –
Using our normal communication network, we were able to quickly inform those we serve and the general public about our disaster response activation.  This communication network included: Noozhawk, KEYT, and the 161 recipients of on our Mailchimp list.  The 161 recipients included; public health centers, treatment/mental health programs, nonprofits, municipalities, law enforcement, and more.

Other –
On Saturday, December 16 and Sunday, December 17 the Freedom Warming Centers provided transportation opportunities from downtown Santa Barbara to UCSB offering individuals, who did not have their own transportation, the opportunity to leave the ‘evacuation warning’ area, and stay at the Red Cross evacuation center located at UCSB.  

What we learned –
There was a variety of very good media information concerning the fire, evacuation areas, road closures, and the Red Cross centers.  However, the Freedom Warming Centers realized we could be part of a larger picture of services if we were active VOAD (Volunteer Organizations Active in Disasters) participants.  Because of the Thomas Fire, the Freedom Warming Centers made the decision to join VOAD.   

For additional information please contact the Freedom Warming Centers:

Kathy Hayes, Director
(805) 636-5174

Thank you.

Leave a Reply