Local businessman, John Saguto, was in his home in Sonoma, California, when the 6.0 magnitude earthquake struck on the morning of August 24. After checking to ensure his family was safe, he headed into town to serve the needs of his community as a volunteer with the American Red Cross—a role he performed almost non-stop for the next few days.
As the week went on, the planning for short-term and long-term recovery progressed as the community assessed the damage, started cleaning up, and identified needs. As Government Liaison for the Red Cross in the County Emergency Operations Center, John’s job was part listener, part consultant, and, as a conduit, communicated critical information and needs between the Red Cross and their government partners.
John made the decision to serve the Red Cross within minutes after the shaking stopped. On that Sunday morning in August, it was still dark when he grabbed his go-kit and walked to the Emergency Operations Center. What he didn’t know at that time, was that there had been damage to the business he and his partner own, Sorento Imports/Café Scooteria on Napa Street in Sonoma. He did know, however, that hundreds of pounds of tools had fallen off shelves wreaking havoc on the race car fabrication shop he runs from his home garage.
“A cascade of some ridiculously heavy equipment that shouldn’t normally move had toppled on top of each other,” he said, “putting pressure on what was at the bottom.” At the bottom were some rather expensive tools and a toolbox.
This was not the first time John had experienced damage from a disaster; but it was the first time he consciously left damage untended to go help others. Returning home from a previous four-week deployment to Southern California, he says he “…found my house was flooded (from events in Sonoma County) and the Red Cross even came by to help. I feel fortunate that this time it was mostly just cleanup of shop equipment.”
After the Napa quake John didn’t get to the cleanup of his shop in his garage until the following weekend. In a very polite email five days after the quake, John explained to his colleagues at the Red Cross: “I do need to return to my business,” he wrote, “and do a fair amount of clean up from damage I have sustained from the recent earthquake.”
John continued to attend daily briefings at the Napa Emergency Operations Center throughout that next weekend, which was Labor Day weekend. He spent the rest of his time cleaning up the business in his garage, helping his partner on Napa Street when he could, and repacking his go-kit. John will be at the Emergency Operations center briefings every day for a while on behalf of the Red Cross, and will be available to help in other ways, when needed, remotely.
He set up his life to be able to respond; and his family, business partner, and friends know what a priority that was and still is to him. And he has a message for his neighbors and everyone who lives in earthquake country:
“This (the Napa quake) was only a wake up call,” he said. “Thankfully, no one was killed nor seriously injured. I hope everyone will now actually do something to have a better recovery next time. If they do, they will be a part of the solution.”
Help people affected by disasters like earthquakes in California and countless other crises by making a gift to American Red Cross Disaster Relief. Your gift enables the Red Cross to prepare for, respond to and help people recover from disasters big and small. Visit redcross.org/donate, or call 1-800-REDCROSS. Contributions may also be sent to your local Red Cross chapter, or to the American Red Cross, P.O. Box 37243, Washington, DC 20013.
To learn more about Red Cross disaster relief click here.
To see photos from the Red Cross South Napa Earthquake Response click here.