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On January 24th, 2014 hundreds of San Francisco’s residents and community leaders joined together in the rotunda of City Hall to celebrate the 6th Annual NEN Awards. Representing public work and service from Best Graffiti Watch Volunteer to Outstanding Parks Volunteer Group, the stories and projects led by some of the City’s most engaged and dedicated individuals lend to the ever growing sense of community and opportunity in San Francisco.

The NEN is proud to announce the release of Resilientville, a brand new group exercise that helps communities see the power, and long term benefits, of inclusive decision making at the neighborhood level.

Created by working group comprising of the City Administrator’s Office, the Dept. of Emergency Management and San Francisco State’s Institute for Civic and Community Engagement, Resilientville builds on the themes of FEMA’s “Whole Community Approach”, by offering a fun interactive exercise that people can easily participate in and learn valuable lessons.

So visit the online home for Resilientville, check out the testimonials and then download the exercise for yourself. If you’d like to run the exercise in your community, just drop us a line and we’ll help you make it happen.



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Introducing the Urban Permaculture Institute of San Francisco; Bringing design skills for resilient, healthy life in the city.


The NEN is excited to announce a new partnership with the Urban Permaculture Institute of San Francisco who has provided training in resiliency design and specific techniques and strategies for sustainable living for over 300 residents all over the city for the last 5 years and continues to offer training around town to those interested in developing such skills and learning about critical resources for their neighborhood.

Permaculture, though sometimes misunderstood as a style of gardening, is a design system for meeting all of human needs in a way that enhances all life. So, imagine meeting our needs for food, water shelter, community, even fun – in ways that benefit the environment and people to create healthy, safe, resilient neighborhoods. People use permaculture design to develop food systems, water systems, energy systems even economic systems and more. Common techniques and strategies used in permaculture design might include perennial, polyculture food gardens, rainwater harvesting, greywater systems, natural building, appropriate technology, even compost toilets and community currencies. More than a collection of alternative, healthy techniques and strategies, permaculture is a methodology and system for arranging such techniques in an appropriate way that considers the context.

In the 85 hour training provided by UPISF, trainees learn both specific techniques and strategies related to growing and preparing food, harvesting, cleaning and reusing water, managing waste, conserving energy, building with natural materials, convening governance groups for effective collective decision-making, developing local resilient economies, communicating effectively with others especially where there might be conflict, researching and analyzing data about a place or problem, manageing microclimates and more, and, methods of design for composing with the conditions of any moment or site to make an effective plan for implementing strategies on a hyper local level in such a way that feedback can be monitored and used to make a system more effective.

Some people take a permaculture training to develop professional skills and get valuable education to enhance their current career or prepare them for their next venture. Some people take the training just to share the experience with an enthusiastic group of like-minded community and meet new friends. Some people take a permaculture training because they are deeply concerned about their neighborhood and how to prepare for an emergency and how to act appropriately for an effective recovery after the first 72 hours of a disaster. UPISF is evolving its training offerings with the help of the NEN leadership to enhance the neighborhood empowerment aspects of the training. Expect to hear more about these new plans soon!

Through a mix of classroom discussion time, small group work and hands-on activities, UPISF explores methods of designing and establishing regenerative communities and economies. UPISF visits and participates at several permaculture projects here in San Francisco and the Bay Area, observing and interacting with Permaculture principles in practice. In the forthcoming weeks and months UPISF will share some designs and content developed by past trainees to share resiliency (and fun) strategies that we can potentially explore to make our neighborhoods more abundant, prosperous and joyful!

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By: Daniel Homsey, NEN Director

6 months ago I had the pleasure of attending a meeting with Dan Neely, Senior Advisor of Wellington’s Office of Emergency Management.  Dan was presenting his work at the Dept of Emergency Management in SF and I was eager to learn more about the work they were doing inWellington to prepare for their “Big One”.  I was very impressed.  As a result I added an additional day to my travels so I could link up with Dan, and larger the community resilience stakeholder network members, in advance of my attendance of the planning conference across the channel in Blenheim.

For those of you who have not ever been to Wellington, I assure you  it’s worth the 12 hour flight.  Similar to San Francisco in so many ways, it’s a city that is constantly in motion, and is seemingly a better place to live and raise family with each passing day. Wellington, like San Francisco, sits on the coast and is nestled inside large bay.  Surrounded by large mountain ranges that look a lot like Mountain Tamalpais, the City is blessed with gorgeous vistas in every direction.  In addition to being the Nation’s Capital, its also the home of Frodo Baggins and the rest of the Middle Earth empire thanks to Peter Jackson and WETA Studios.  But there is more to the City’s geography than beautiful topography and Hobbiton, this place rocks literally.

Wellington sits on, and is surrounded by, some of the most active and volatile earthquake faults in the world.  So volatile, in fact, that in the 1800s, they had an earthquake so powerful it created a land bridge to a large island in the middle of the bay instantly.  Today that land bridge is the InternationalAirport, and that island is crawling with Orcs from WETA’s massive movie back lot (sorry for the Lord of the Rings references—I’m a big fan). While this historical activity may have created opportune land use options, it offers emergency managers like Dan Neely quite a challenging task to prepare hundreds of thousands of folks for a myriad of challenges that only present themselves to a City located next to a subduction zone (think Japan 2011) as well as a stone’s throw away from the Antarctic and its dynamic weather patterns.

Dan kindly set up a whirlwind of site visits and meetings for me over a day and half that gave me both a deep understanding / appreciation for their efforts as well as a chance to share the methods were developing in SF to advance our communities resilience in the face of any challenge.

Here is a quick overview of what I was able to squeeze in under a day and half.

  • A meeting with Mayor Celia Wade Brown.

Mayor Brown arrived right on time for our meeting at her office in Wellington’s beautiful City Hall. Her transport of choice, her now famous electric assisted bike which she road out on the tarmac to meet Secretary of State Hilary Clinton on a recent visit. The Mayor, like virtually all of the New Zealanders I’ve met, was exceedingly friendly and passionate about her community and its environment.  During our meeting I shared with her the NEN’s Empowered Communities Program and how were leveraging the amazing network of organizations in our City to advance our neighborhoods resilience.  She was clearly impressed with the approach of a “bottom up” community action planning process with the long term goal of empowering a community to sustainably steward itself perpetually.  Before she left for the concert of Mozart’s music a floor below, she proposed we continue our conversation during a potential visit to San Francisco in July of the coming year.

  • Launching the Resilientville Exercise Building Stronger Communities, One Decision at a Time.

A key opportunity arose for this visit toWellington, when it looked like the Resilientville exercise that a team of us from the City Administrator’s office and DEM had been working on for the last year would be ready to be run in time for my visit. Dan Neely organized a group of over 20 local leaders from all aspects of the emergency management community, including the national and local government, the faith community, NGOs such as the National Red Cross and advocates for the disabled and refugee communities to name just a few. For over an hour, two groups sitting in the round inside the City’s Emergency Operations Center, went through the scenarios. In the end the exercise was given a strong thumbs up as a valuable tool to advance awareness of the power of the Whole Community Approach.

  • Meeting the City’s new Community Resilience Team

Recently the City created a Community Resilience Team whose mission it is to engage residents in a process of advancing the City’s over all resilience through action at the neighborhood level.  The team saw many elements of the Empowered Communities Program model that they liked and wants to continue the dialogue in the coming months after I return to the US as they build out their program plan.

  • Meeting with Bruce Pepperell and Fred Mecoy

I had the pleasure of having separate meetings with Bruce Pepperall and Fred Mecoy over the course of the two days I was inWellington. Bruce is the Manager of Wellington Region Emergency Management Office which is a brand new division that will manage emergency services on a regional basis.  Fred is the current Manager of Emergency Preparedness for the City of Wellington. Both gentlemen embrace the opportunity before them to advance the region’s resilience and note that since the Christchurch incident, the level of traction they are getting with their message in the community has increased dramatically.  They both hope that public interest won’t wane too quickly so that they can hopefully move as many people as possible into a better prepared condition.

  • Meeting with Elizabeth McNaughton, National Recovery Manager, NZ Red Cross

Elizabeth Mc Naughton contacted me right before I left for Wellington and asked if we could get together during my visit. Elizabethwas a key leader for the Red Cross in its effort to support Christchurch residents in the hours, days, weeks and months since the earthquakes.  She still visits Christchurch almost weekly and works to support communities as they move through the long recovery process.  After our meeting she offered to meet me inChristchurchand give me a tour of the neighborhoods that she works with and connect me with folks to hear their experiences in person.

  • Meeting with a delegation of the City’s Civil Defense Volunteers

I ended my day with an after work get together with members of Wellington’s Civil Defense  similar to our NERT.  They were an amazing bunch of folks who remind me so much of the great NERT team members I had just spent the morning with at the citywide drill on Everett Middle School’s playground a few weeks ago.  They were from all walks of life and all of them had been deployed to Christchurch to help manage welfare centers and work in the EOC. It was an honor to meet them and I know the leadership of Wellington feels blessed to have them on call.

As you can probably tell, I covered a lot of territory in a short amount of time however I felt it essential to try and connect with as many different elements of the emergency management community as possible. Is Wellington doing amazing things in the emergency preparedness / resilience space?  Absolutely.  Upon my return we’re going to set up follow up conference calls to learn more about their use of social media and volunteers to advance their over all ability to respond and recovery to challenges of any kind and size.

I’m off to Blenheim now to present at the planning conference.  Also presenting will be members of the national and regional government that are overseeing the recovery of Christchurch. Should be a great opportunity to get thoroughly prepared for my five days in Christchurch next week

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Join NEN Director Daniel Homsey and Laurence Kornfield on a visual tour of the Safe Enough to Stay Exhibit at San Francisco planning and Urban Research Association.

Under the leadership of Laurence Kornfield, Program Manager for the Community Action Plan for Seismic Safety and the San Francisco Planning + Urban Research Association (SPUR), Safe Enough to Stay was designed to advance the concept of “Sheltering in Place” after an earthquake in San Francisco. The goal of the exhibit is to empower residents with the knowledge that small adjustments to their homes will allow them to continue to use the structure in a sanitary and efficient wayafter it has been deemed structurally sound and livable. For example, residents are advised to utilize plastic sheeting in order to cover broken windows and doors as well as to familiarize themselves with their unit’s gas and water shutoff systems in the event of a leak or failure.

At the heart of the Safe to Stay exhibit is the proof of concept design called the Neighborhood Support Center (NSC). The NSC will function as a neighborhood information center that is designed to provide residents with access to resources and relevant information concerning their community. The idea is that by creating a hyper local informational gathering point that is focused on the needs of the immediate vicinity, the Neighborhood Support Centers will offer an invaluable safety net to residents in the days, weeks and months after a major event.

Safe Enough to Stay [google-map-sc]


654 Mission Street

San Francisco, CA



The Neighborhood Empowerment Network enters into a Strategic Partnership with the Bay Area Red Cross.

At the core of the Neighborhood Empowerment Network’s values is the belief that neighborhoods which are well organized and rich with the capacity to steward themselves are optimally positioned to both respond and recover from any size natural disaster. For the last three years the NEN’s member organizations have been working in communities across the City identifying ways to actively support local communities as they work to achieve true resilience.The Bay Area Red Crossis equally committed to the same goal and for over one hundred years it has been working with residents, and their communities, in both good times and bad. Last year the Bay Area Red Cross launched the Ready Neighborhood initiative, a regional effort to help advance the resilience of fifty at risk communities in every corner of the Bay Area.

 Upon the first anniversary of this program, the Bay Area Red Cross and the

Neighborhood Empowerment Network are proud to announce a new strategic partnership.  This partnership will streamline participating communities access to the tools, resources and methods being developed with in the NEN’s Empowered Communities Program.

The goal is to support communities as they work to not only achieve the capacity to support themselves during the hours, days and weeks after a disaster but to also help them develop the skills and relationships to ensure a swift and successful recovery.

The NEN is honored to be collaborating with the Bay Area Red Cross and we look forward to building a whole new suite of programs for the communities of the San Francisco Bay Area to leverage in the decades to come.

By Kristin Hogan, SF DEM

Last week the San Francisco Planning and Urban Research Association (SPUR) opened Safe Enough to Stay, an exhibit for the public that teaches us what steps we should take to make San Francisco a Resilient City. Within the exhibit is a recreation of a San Francisco apartment, which allows visitors to experience what living in a retrofitted home after a major earthquake might be like, along with recommendations to make our homes safe enough to stay. The exhibit is in support of the SPUR report, Safe Enough to Stay.

Several of us at DEM went to the opening and had a similar experience: seeing a San Francisco-esque apartment replica with damages an earthquake would likely cause really drove home (forgive the pun) the core message of the exhibit, that staying at home after an earthquake really is doable.

“People would far prefer sleeping in their own beds as opposed to living in a shelter” said Laurence Kornfield, Special Assistant to the San Francisco City Administrator in the San Francisco Earthquake Safety Implementation Program. “Not to mention, most of us have a big concern about the security of our homes should we leave, so if the building is not leaning or obviously structurally damaged, most homes are safe enough to stay.”

DEM is a leading agency in recovery planning for San Francisco and knows a vital factor in our ability to recover is that San Francisco residents are able to stay in their homes. And as SPUR stated in the report, Safe Enough to Stay, the city has a limited number of emergency-shelter beds, and its ability to provide interim housing is constrained by low vacancy rates and minimal vacant land. This means San Francisco is at risk of losing its most important asset: its people.

Thank you SPUR for creating a resonating experience that educates us on how to stay in our homes after an earthquake. The exhibit is free to the public and will run through April 18, 2012.

Stay tuned for more updates and an inside look of the construction of this exhibit.


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