When Sue Ziliotto joined the Montecito Emergency Response and Recovery Action Group in 2006, she didn’t realize that she would quickly become one of the organization’s most valuable members.
Mrs. Ziliotto was presented with the Volunteer of the Year award for 2019 at the MERRAG annual meeting on Thursday morning at the Four Seasons Resort Biltmore Santa Barbara.
MERRAG is a network of trained volunteers who live or work in the Montecito area and respond to disaster events.
“I got involved to begin with because I just felt I had the skills to help our community. Also, my husband John (Ziliotto) is retired from the (Montecito) fire department so that gave us an incentive to both be involved,” said Mrs. Ziliotto who is a past president and currently serves as secretary of the board.
“At first I said I’ll participate when you call up and of course I’ll do whatever you need. But then I felt that I could help MERRAG more by becoming a board member and being part of MERRAG.”
Montecito Fire Protection District Chief Kevin Taylor presented the award and discussed a few of Ms. Ziliotto’s many achievements.
“She was the MERRAG team leader for the 1/9 Raising Our Light event, she staffed our information kiosk during our winter storm events January through March and fire weather events September through October. Always ready to respond with a smile when activated by the fire department,” said Mr. Taylor.
Other achievements include coordinating crowd control volunteers for the Montecito 4th of July parade, creating training ads, coordinated a CERT course and attends monthly Aware and Prepare meetings.
“And of course, who else would have done it? She coordinated today’s annual (MERRAG) meeting,” said Mr. Taylor.
Ms. Ziliotto said out of all her accomplishments this year, she’s proudest of coordinating Montecito’s first Community Emergency Response Team Program. The program educates people about disaster preparedness for hazards that may impact their area and trains them in basic disaster response skills.
“Other communities have CERT classes, but this is the very first training that Montecito has done. And so we feel that’s really important in the community to train our volunteers and the more people who are trained and who have some idea what to do in a disaster are better able to help their families and the community in case emergency responders are not available,” said Mrs. Ziliotto who said the classes were held at the Montecito Fire Station Nov. 6-9.
Most of the classes were from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. in the evening.
“I organized it, I coordinated it, we have trainers that teach each specific class and I got all the trainers together and coordinated and sent out materials to get people signed up for it.”
“I think that I felt so good about it because our fire department supports us so well. The guys that were on duty were there and helped some of the training,” said Ms. Ziliotto.
Mr. Taylor also recognized Jackie Jenkins, who retired after 39 years of public service, 22 of which were spent at the fire department. She served as a communications coordinator.
During the meeting, MERRAG president Troy Harris informed members of a planned initiative to expand the Montecito radio network to facilitate communication between neighborhoods in emergency situations.