Firestorm Response

The American Institute of Architects, East Bay (AIA East Bay) is a local non-profit membership organization for architects and design professionals. In addition to supporting its members in the practice of excellent design, AIA East Bay interacts with members of the community in a variety of ways.

Following the East Bay Firestorm in 1991 AIA East Bay immediately responded to the community’s needs by providing support in multiple ways, including:

  • CEDAT (California Emergency Design Assistance Team) organized to elicit from the fire survivors their recollections of their pre-existing neighborhood context and to identify those elements to carry forward into their reconstructed neighborhoods. The CEDAT contributed to both the rebuilding process and to the healing process that followed the fire.
  • Design Review: Recommended design review not be required for projects that closely conformed to pre-existing size, siting and massing. Developed a checklist to help the City to determine where Design Review would be appropriate.
  • One Stop Shop: Encouraged FEMA and the Cities of Berkeley and Oakland to set up single separate offices to expedite obtaining building permits.
  • Education: Public meetings help fire survivors understand the design, permitting and construction processes.
  • Women’s Support Group: It was quickly realized that many single, divorced and widowed women, approximately 30 percent of the people who lost their homes, would be facing the reconstruction process alone. For over a year AIA East Bay’s Women in Architecture Committee arranged for expert speakers and facilitated meetings to help in both design process and, more importantly, healing.

Email to be notified of disaster response trainings and opportunities.

Suggestions to live and build in safety:

  • Get to know your neighbors.
  • Join and support your neighborhood emergency support network.
  • Start a neighborhood group that includes an emergency support network – and go through the publicly-available training.
  • Hire a licensed Architect (email AIA East Bay for a referral).
  • Design and build following all codes.
  • Site your project to provide “defensible space” – in case of adjacent structure or brush fire.
  • Design for easy vehicular access to a public road.
  • Use native plant landscaping where possible.
  • Landscape to provide separation from trees and your building.
  • Avoid landscaping on or over your roof (exception: a “green” sod roof).
  • Plan for multiple ways out of your building and bedrooms.
  • Use sustainable, fire resistant materials.
  • Roof: Composition shingles, metal, tile or light weight hybrid materials.
  • Ventilate any attics from the roof plane and the ridge.
  • Wall: stucco, concrete panels, wood and/or metal over gypsum panels, stone and/or masonry (solid or as facings).
  • Install fire sprinklers (optional).
  • Install appropriate fire extinguishers in the garage and the kitchen.