Ashlanders: Clark and Carol Custodio

Clark and Carol Custodio are disaster preparedness dynamos. Carol is the co-author of "The Disaster Recovery Handbook & Household Inventory Guide," a handy reference for property owners that offers useful tips on recovering from a disaster such as a fire and advice from disaster survivors and experts.

Clark, a former deputy fire chief, teaches CPR courses and is active with Ashland's local Community Emergency Response Team (CERT). The couple, who met at a disaster preparedness conference, volunteer with several local organizations, joyfully sharing their talent, energy and love of the community.

Before speaking at a recent CERT graduation, the Custodios spoke with the Daily Tidings, explaining their commitment to community service and offering preparedness tips.

DT: How did you get involved in disaster recovery?

Carol: In 1991, after the Oakland Hills fire, over 3,000 homes were lost and there was a lot of damage. I was in the area, trying to help friends. 30 of the families in my church lost their homes. The fire had a lot of impact for me. I woke up in the middle of the night one night, having dreamt I was writing a book of lists. So I did. It's a good resource for after a structure fire, especially. After that I became interested in preparedness and disaster recovery, and was invited to be a vendor at earthquake preparedness fairs around the Bay Area.

DT: How long have you lived in Ashland?

Carol: Six years as of last July. We're both native Californians, born and raised there. We moved here from Walnut Creek.

DT: What brought you here?

Carol: We went to a Richard Bolles workshop, author of "What Color is Your Parachute?" in part for my work as a national certified career counselor and in part to figure out what we wanted to do for our retirement. Through one of Bolles' exercises we came up with a list of criteria for an ideal place to retire. Ashland had everything we wanted.

DT: What were your criteria?

Carol: No. 1 was a sense of community. We were attracted to the Shakespeare Festival, it's beautiful here, there are good restaurants, it felt like a mini Bay Area. Clark likes fly fishing, there are rivers nearby, lots of good fishing. And the size of the community was just right.

DT: How did you meet?

Carol: We just ended up at the same conference. I went to hear the keynote speaker and Clark was there as Deputy Fire Chief for the Santa Clara Fire Department. We met on the way out the door and exchanged information because the Fire Department was interested in my book. I told him I was interested in seeing his brochures. That night, Clark called me to say he'd like to drop off his department's brochure. When I said when, he said Sunday afternoon over lunch. He showed up with the brochure and a bunch of flowers. We actually did disaster preparedness stuff all afternoon, but that was the beginning.

DT: Talk about your activities in the community.

Clark: I work with CERT, I teach CPR at Asante Health System, and I've helped out with Salmon Watch. Salmon Watch is a program out of Oregon Trout, a statewide conservation program that teaches students the importance of salmon not only economically, but culturally and environmentally. It's aimed at 4th through 8th grade. The kids really love it. They get to put on rubber boots and get little nets. They can stir up all the muck and rocks and look for little insects to study. I also volunteer at OSF.

Carol: We like to be involved. I also volunteer at OSF at the welcome center, and with the AAUW, and my church. We are also coordinators for the food drive.

DT: You both are very active in the community.

Carol: I think it's typical of people here, all of our friends. We're all retired and we have time. Clark has always been service-minded as a firefighter. There are so many opportunities to plug into. We're actually trying to get a few things off our plates so we can go out and have coffee dates.

DT: How did you get involved with CERT?

Clark: A friend and neighbor of mine asked me to do something with the Fire Department. It turned out to be CERT, so I signed up for it. I'm glad I did. When we had flooding I helped out with the sand bags, and when we were voluntarily cutting back on water usage I helped hand out fliers, and of course the recent fires.

DT: Do you have advice for someone after a disaster such as fire or earthquake?

Carol: My best advice is to be prepared. You should have enough emergency supplies, food and water to be self-sufficient for a minimum of 36 hours.

Clark: I'd say 72 hours considering our location way down in Southern Oregon. If the pass is closed it may take longer for help to reach us.

Carol: That's true. Also, know how to evacuate. Be prepared to evacuate and a have a list ready. Know what you would take with you if you only had 10 minutes, know what you would take if you had half an hour. And have a written inventory and snapshots of your valuable belongings somewhere off the premises, at a friend's house or a safe-deposit box. Ideally, include a video sweep of your entire home.

DT: How can people learn more about preparedness?

Clark: I encourage people to join CERT. A lot of things are covered. If you don't have time to join CERT, you can take part in the Ashland Fire Department's Map Your Neighborhood program. That's when people in individual neighborhoods get together and learn about emergency preparedness. For instance, I went around the neighborhood and showed people how to shut off their gas valves.

Carol: It's really good. You get to know your neighbors. If you know your neighbors, you know who can help and who might need help.

DT: Is there anything you would like to add?

Carol: We're awfully happy to be in Ashland. Everyone is so friendly.

For more information about CERT or Map Your Neighborhood, call 552-2226 or go to

Angela Howe-Decker is a freelance writer living in Ashland. Contact her at

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