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Bucket Brigade Academy

Training for Life in A Changing World

Bucket Brigade Academy is made possible and accessible through the support of our Sponsors

Corporate, Family, and Individual Sponsorships Available - Click To Inquire

Natural disasters are profoundly challenging the global community

  • The Bucket Brigade Academy trains communities how to build resilience capacity where it is needed most: the grassroots level
  • Now is the time for action
  • Help us empower the next generation with the skills, relationships and support needed to face the challenge of life in our changing world

Helpless or Helpful?

Are we going to be helpless in the face of this crisis or will we become good at helping each other?

After a disaster, many people want to help, but they don’t know how.

This can render thousands of people who want to assist their neighbors – a huge potential humanitarian aid resource – completely helpless in a time of need.

Some of these would-be helpers try to assist and actually end up making the situation worse by getting injured, by getting in the way of the first responders, and especially by providing assistance that isn’t needed or wanted.

The thing people often forget is this: your effort is only “helping” if you are providing what people need when they need it. Period.

A community’s ability to self-rescue – to care for the injured, to shelter the displaced and to mount a successful short and long-term relief and recovery effort can be the difference between life and death in a major natural disaster.

But there is more at stake than just life and property.

The spirit of a community can be damaged or strengthened by a community’s response to a crisis.

The failure of a community to mount a caring, organized response and to take care of neighbors in need can cause people to lose faith –
faith in community,
faith in their country,
even faith in humanity itself.

A successful relief and recovery effort can actually make a community stronger, more connected, and more united than it was before the disaster. 

We call this Community Self-Rescue.

The decisions we make now and the preparations we undertake are the keys to success in the challenges we face today and the greater challenges to come.

Now is the time to to become really good at helping each other in Santa Barbara, in California and across the globe.

We have developed a way to do it. 


Bucket Brigade Academy

The Bucket Brigade Academy (BBA) is a community resilience training program for high school student leaders.

At Bucket Brigade Academy…

  • Leaders are trained in time-tested ways to help their community in a positive “show me, don’t tell me” style
  • Community resilience is built and strengthened by real work in real time – each day
  • Young leaders build relationships and skills with other community-minded students in a safe, inclusive and empowering environment.
  • Young people learn what it takes to become good at helping their community in a time of need

Through hands-on volunteer deployments and positive leadership development, Bucket Brigade Academy teaches high school students how to organize, train and deploy the power of community in response to natural disasters and crises.

Building on the Bucket Brigade Community Self-Rescue System, developed for decades and honed during the humanitarian response to the Thomas Fire and Debris Flow, the Global Pandemic, the Alisal Fire, and 2023 winter flooding, our trainers put an emphasis on relationship building and community organizing to help create a more connected and resilient Santa Barbara County.

BBA graduates will leave the programs with an understanding of the skills and abilities required to lead during a community crisis as well as to lead community service projects here in Santa Barbara County and beyond.

What You'll Learn

Safety Training and Certification

ASHI Training and Certification in First aid, CPR/AED and bleeding control, Wilderness First Aid and Wilderness First Responder.

Volunteer Leadership Skills Development

Learn how to organize, train and deploy volunteers in the field. Learn strategy and tactics and employ different leadership techniques during practice deployments.

Volunteer Deployment

There is a 2 1/2 hour deployment each day. Students take turns trying out different volunteer leadership roles and provide feedback to the team.

Relationship Building, Snack Breaks, and Chill Time

We will have a light breakfast, two snack breaks and a 30 minute lunch break each day. Food, drinks and snacks will be provided by the Bucket Brigade.

Bucket Brigade Academy Curriculum

ASHI Training + Certification

  • CPR All Ages
  • AED All Ages
  • Stop the Bleed
  • Epipen and Naloxone

Basic Deployment Principles of ICS

  • Planning
  • Logistics
  • Operations
  • Administration
  • Coordination

Introduction to Working With Tools

  • McCleod
  • Pulaski
  • Shovel
  • Rake
  • Wheelbarrow
  • Hammer
  • Drill

Deployment Skills

Use tools and do work together in an organized, well-led manner

  • Managing Invasive Species
  • Habitat Restoration
  • Trail Restoration
  • Victory Gardening

ASHI Training + Certification

  • Wilderness First Aid
  • Psychological First Aid

Fundamentals of Disaster Relief

Applying The Deployment Principles of ICS

  • Planning
  • Logistics
  • Operations
  • Administration
  • Coordination

Teaching Volunteers to Work With Tools

  • McCleod
  • Pulaski
  • Shovel
  • Rake
  • Wheelbarrow
  • Hammer
  • Drill

Deployment Skills

Use leadership skills to work together in an organized manner to restore the community.

  • Managing Invasive Species
  • Habitat Restoration
  • Trail Restoration
  • Victory Gardening

ASHI Training + Certification

  • Wilderness First Responder Training and Certification

Advanced Psychological First Aid

Incident Command System

  • Planning
  • Logistics
  • Operations
  • Administration
  • Coordination

Advanced Volunteer Leadership Techniques

Community Uplift/ Relief Project Planning and Coordination

Plan, organize and execute a community uplift project fro start to finish with the Bucket Brigade and/or other community partners

Advanced Training + Certification

  • CERT (Community Emergency Response Team)
  • Listos California

Advanced Equipment Training

  • Fundamentals of Heavy Equipment Operation
  • Chainsaw Safety and Operation

Advanced Leadership Training for Life in a Changed Climate

Neighborhood Five-Step Action Plan

Leadership Exercises

Practice leading over and over again until you get good at it.

Frequently Asked Questions

Have a question that you don’t see answered here?

Email and we’ll get the answer for you.

Here are some clues:

  • You like helping people
  • You like working hard, physically, mentally or both
  • You like playing outside
  • You like learning new things
  • You have time to volunteer on the weekends during the school year
  • You are a great communicator

You might not be a good fit if:

  • Your parents want you to apply more than you do
  • You don’t like to get your hands dirty
  • Your idea of working hard is leaning on a shovel
  • You don’t enjoy working with groups of people
  • Your schedule is already fully booked with extra-curricular activities and this would just be another thing to do
  • You think you should be a leader, or other people think you should be a leader, but you don’t enjoy leading
  • You are not a risk-taker (stepping into leadership is always a risk)

Everyone ages 14-19. Everyone.

Yes – they are genuinely encouraged to apply. Please do. All are welcome here and the more diverse the community of leaders, the better the Cadre will be.

  • We will accept up to 500 applicants for initial consideration.  
  • Everyone who applies after the initial 500 will automatically be on an application waitlist.
  • Once applications are received they will be checked for completeness.  Incomplete applications will be rejected from the initial 500 and we will fill those slots with completed applications from the application waiting list in the order they are received.
  • Our Analytical Decision-Making Framework is focused on finding the best leadership candidates from each neighborhood as identified in our application. (This will be refined in the future – We know it is not perfect AND – we only have 80 seats this summer)  Applicants are competing with people from their own neighborhood. Not other neighborhoods. The desiderata are diverse cadres of people from different neighborhoods and backgrounds working together.  This is realistic training for “spontaneous volunteer” leadership.
  • What makes a best candidate?  Someone who has a strongest likelihood of using the training and community network connection we provide for the immediate benefit of their community.
  • The Goal of the Admission Process:  To create diverse cadres of “most likely to lead” people from each neighborhood in Santa Barbara County.  Our goal is to weave a safety net of compassionate and capable human beings throughout the County – to build the “human infrastructure” of resilience.  To accomplish this, we need people who want to help their community, who are trained to be good at helping others and who regularly, patiently and willingly collaborate with spontaneous volunteers.

Of course, but a lot of the material we cover will probably annoy you AND we are not going to debate the subject – period.

A changed climate is a fundamental assumption of our work and the need for the Academy itself.

You are welcome to apply. 

This program will be taught in English in 2023 and in English AND Spanish in 2024.

We are very sorry not to offer it in both languages this year, but this is a new program and “you have to walk before you can run.”

We do have bilingual staff on site and can answer questions in English and Spanish, so if you struggle with English, (and speak Spanish) we can work with you and this is not a barrier to being admitted to the program. 

Seriously – don’t let this get in the way.

If you are a leader and are reading this in translation please apply.  We will do our absolute best to accommodate you if you are accepted.

You bet it is. Definitely a plus – at the Academy and in life as far as we are concerned.

The more languages you speak, the more people you can work with during a spontaneous volunteer deployment.

You can ask to be wait-listed on a week when you can make it.

Yes – AND – You will not receive certification. No exceptions.

Don’t apply. Certification requires attendance to the fully scheduled training program.

You will not receive certification at the time of training.

However, with a doctor’s note, we will allow you to make up the required training on a weekend during the following 6 months.

Absolutely and we will do our absolute best to get people’s pronouns correct every time.

Some of our staff is older and they are not always adept with correct pronouns, and we are all fully committed to getting good at it and you can bet we fly our Pride flag high at the training site.

You are welcome and encouraged to apply.

Bucket Brigade Academy is a safe space.

We will kick them out.

We demand total respect for others in this program. Anything less will not be good enough.

Mean comments, inappropriate comments, rude behavior, harassment or anything deemed to be “not respectful or kind” will not be allowed at the Academy – period.

Further, everyone will be required to sign a Mutual-Respect and Anti-Harassment Policy Agreement before attending the Academy.

Failure to abide by the terms of the agreement will result in expulsion from the program.

Parents will need to sign the agreement as well, because – if your child gets kicked out of the Academy, you will have to agree to stop work and come and get them. No kidding.

Common Misconceptions About The Bucket Brigade

Misconception #1: “Volunteer deployment is only for ‘physically strong’ people”

This is total crap. Consider what goes into every single volunteer deployment:

  • Planning: No plan – no work. Are you good at planning things? This could be your “strong suit”.
  • Logistics: No tools, no PPE – no work. Deployments require a lot of stuff. It takes organized people to make sure everything that is needed is where it needs to be when it needs to be there for a successful operation.
  • Operations: Are you good at handling fluid situations with good composure and control – good at multitasking? This might be for you.
  • Administration/Finance – Records keeping, money, forms, photos, followup. So much to do here. Do you like keeping things organized and making sure everything is in its proper place? You can help!
  • Coordination – Communication – Running the show requires a ton of communication. Are you a good communicator? You can help. Email, text, social media, websites, translation, interpretation…there is a lot of communicating to do.
  • Human Connection: Are you a good listener? After a natural disaster, most people need to talk about the trauma they experienced. Sometimes they need to tell their story 20 or 30 times until it starts to make any sense to them at all. It helps if there are lots of good listeners around. In 2018, we did as much listening and hugging as we did digging. This kind of “psychological first-aid” is just as important (sometimes even more important) than the physical assistance that is provided during relief efforts.

Misconception #2: “All the Bucket Brigade is good for is digging out the mud.”

Also total crap. Consider our history:

  • 2018 – yeah, ok, a lot of mud, but also
    • 66 acres of public open space cleared
    • 5 miles of trail – restored
    • 2 miles of new trail – blazed
    • Community Self-Rescue System – created.
  • 2020 Make Masks – Save Lives: volunteers design, sew, sort and deliver 40,000+ cloth face coverings to essential service workers across Santa Barbara County. (no shovels needed)
  • 2021 Growing Community Project – growing and sharing food with people in need. Raised bed garden delivery. Online Victory Garden Classes.
  • 2022 Alisal Fire Assistance Project: Helping uninsured people recover from a wildfire.
  • 2023 Winter Storm Deployment: OK – more mud and shovels sure, but also:
    • tarps and insulation
    • drywall and psychological first-aid
    • lots and lots of communication and outreach.

We really need more help from good communicators moving forward!

Survivor communication, volunteer communication, donor communication, inter-agency communication.

It’s a lot and good communication is the key to the game. Get it? You don’t need muscles if you got comms skillz. You could help us just by being really good at TikTok – we totally can’t figure that out.

How Much Does The Bucket Brigade Academy Cost?

The suggested donation for Bucket Brigade academy is $600 per week. We suggest that amount because that is what it costs us to run the program.
However, you should only pay what you can afford.
Here are some of the costs that go into each week of training:

  • 2 meals every day
  • Snacks and beverages
  • Bucket Brigade Academy gear
  • ASHI Certifications
  • Bucket Brigade Medic First Aid Kits
  • Expert trainers
  • Professional training and certification for the trainers
  • Personal protective equipment
  • Building supplies
  • Native plant and tree seedlings
  • And more…

As you can see, the Bucket Brigade Academy values elite training and certification. We also believe that money shouldn’t be a barrier to this level of training, so in order to make our program accessible to everyone we have set up the:

BBA Honor System Scholarship Fund

Brought to you for access and inclusion with the help of our sponsors:

The suggested donation for a week of training is $600.

However, contribute only as much as you can afford.

For real.  It’s that simple.

For example:

  • If your family can afford to, we ask that you donate the full $600 and consider donating additional funds to help make this accessible to others.
  • If your family can’t afford to contribute to the program, then don’t pay anything.
  • If your family can afford to contribute $200, then that will be good enough.
  • If you can afford $10, then that is what you should contribute.

Every contribution helps us provide this training, no matter the size.

We won’t ask what you can contribute during the admission process, so finances will not be part of that.

If you get accepted, we want you to be there – so you are in – with or without a suggested donation.

  • No financial aid application
  • No tax returns
  • No financial statements required

We trust that you value this week of training and ask that you do your best to support it.

That’s how the honor system works.

Trust - Honor - Community

That's it.

Bucket Brigade Academy is made possible and accessible through the support of our Sponsors

Corporate, Family, and Individual Sponsorships Available - Click To Inquire