Preparedness training + A Preparedness kit = Ready for the next earthquake! NERT – or Neighborhood Emergency Response Team – a free training program for individuals, neighborhood groups, and community-based organizations in San Francisco, is one of the city’s most effective preparedness organizations. NERT’s Lt. Erica Arteseros explains more about NERT and how to start getting your home’s preparedness kit together.
Documentary filmmaker S. Leo Chiang discusses the role of community in a post disaster environment and his experience in filming his latest documentary; A Village Called Versailles. The film chronicles the Vietnamese communities struggle in New Orleans after hurricane Katrina had devastated their homes. Their story shows the strength and importance of community in the effort to rebuild after a disaster.
Want to make your neighborhood a better place? First, you’ve got to know what assets the community has. As Project Manager of the NENu (“NEN University”) Polk Corridor Resiliency Project, Doris Padilla understands better than most this vital “asset-mapping” process. Doris talks with NENfm about treasure-hunting on the Polk Street Corridor.
Guest: Doris Padilla, Project Manager of the Polk Corridor Resiliency Project (PCRP)
Neighborhood/Area: Polk Street Corridor (comprising the Lower Polk, Middle Polk, Upper Polk/Russian Hill neighborhoods), San Francisco
Related Organizations:Â Russian Hill Neighbors,Â Middle Polk Neighborhood Association, andÂ Lower Polk Neighbors
Additional Credits: Moontan (music)
Most San Franciscans will probably make it through the next Bay Area earthquake. But will residents stick around afterward or leave permanently, repeating the New Orleans story?
In this first part of a presentation on the Disaster Recovery Phase, NEN Director Daniel Homsey explains why the Recovery Phase after a major disaster is so important and the challenge of getting people to think now about this phase. Check back soon for Part 2 of this presentation, where Daniel outlines practical solutions to preparing in advance for the Disaster Recovery Phase.
[Also viewable on YoutubeÂ here.]
Given the San Francisco Interfaith Councilâ€™s (SFIC) extensive work in disaster preparedness, I felt that firsthand experience on the ground would be rewarding for myself and SFIC. My name was put on a waiting list for a Dickinson College student/alumni Katrina rebuild-mission trip to New Orleans and, this May, I got the call and went into action.
Flying above the Gulf Coast, the darkness of the oil-polluted waters from the recent uncontrollable BP spill was my welcome mat to New Orleans. For the duration of the stay, newspaper front pages were dominated by stories of the spill and frustration at the slow and ineffective response.
From May 24-29th, home was NOLAâ€™s Trinity Methodist Church. Post Katrina, this water-damaged religious facility was converted into a recovery station. The sanctuary, filled with building supplies, became a makeshift Home Depot. Classrooms were crammed with bunk beds and the kitchen became ground zero for chow and fellowship.
Three teams of nine, each led by a â€œBonnerâ€ Student Leader, were assigned cooking and cleanup duty and were the cogs that made life in this spartan setting work. Participants brought their own mess kits and an assigned kitchen supply, so as to minimize unnecessary refuse. Vans driven in from Dickinson carted teams to and from the jobsites.Â
Rising with the chickens, after a quick breakfast, we made sack lunches then loaded coolers and building supplies onto the vans. Thanks to the portable GPS we were able to reach our destinations. With the common bond of our alma mater, we put the best that Dickinson taught us into action.
Team spirit emerged organically and instantaneously. What we lacked in construction experience, we compensated in zeal, creativity and sweat! The roller coaster days spanned from watching paint dry to surges of energy, as seemingly impossible time sensitive tasks demanded every bit of adrenaline we could muster. Â Trying to conquer the logistics and execution of dry-walling a small bathroom, exercising muscles I didnâ€™t know I had and inhaling work dust, were all firsts for this neophyte â€œBob the Builder!â€
What kept us grounded and on track was interaction with the homeowners and neighbors. Their remarkable stories of perseverance five years after Katrina, living in these flood-damaged dwellings without working plumbing and electricity, losing loved ones and community, was the sobering reality which recalled us to our mission. Intermittently, children would appear wanting to help or distract us from the tasks at hand with invitations to toss a football. Elderly neighbors, sympathetic with our heat fatigue would offer cold bottles of water. All the time, these Katrina victims never lost hope or humor.
Our routine wrapped up after dinner in the sanctuary with reflections of the dayâ€™s highs and lows. Â Itâ€™s been 27 years since graduating from Dickinson. With that perspective I was amazed at the intellectual caliber, social conscience, and selfless desire to serve engrained in the undergrads I dubbed, â€œBright Young Things.â€ An unexpected surprise was meeting four alums from San Francisco, whoâ€™ve become instant chums.
In addition to the workdays, we spent our last afternoon touring the hardest hit â€œLower 9th Ward.â€ Perched on the site of the levy break and looking at the slabs where humble homes once stood before being washed away, countless folk had waited for rescue on top roofs, and numerous lives had perished, I could not help but feel that I was standing on sacred ground. The few Brad Pitt â€œMake It Right Foundationâ€ eco-friendly homes, slow to rise, made one wonder if the rest of the country had all but forgotten about the plight of these struggling souls.
Greatest hope came when hearing from a â€œTeach For Americaâ€ faculty member, who walked us through the labyrinth of module classrooms at the nearby G.W. Carver High School. It was then and there that the resilience of NOLA teachers and students became most apparent.
No trip to NOLA is complete without wandering the French Quarter and taking a trolley ride through the Garden District. Strangely, visiting those places, seemingly unharmed by Katrina, was a stark reminder of the racial and economic inequity of New Orleans. The opening lines of the Charles Dickens, Tale of Two Cities, â€œIt was the best of times, it was the worst of times,â€ seemed best to characterize that demographic divide.
As my plane touched down at SFO, I wondered whether we San Franciscans, living at the precipice of an earthquake, would endure a like disaster with the fortitude, patience and grace of the folk Iâ€™d met in New Orleans. If nothing else, this trip inspired hope in the potential of the human spirit to meet any challenge. Likewise, as in other philanthropic endeavors, this well-intentioned volunteer left enriched and touched by the souls he came to help.
From Twitter to Facebook to podcasting and blogging, from President Obama’s Open Government Initiative to San Francisco’s Open Data efforts, we live in interesting times as the roles of citizens, media, and government intertwine and change. Much of this change is driven by interesting new technologies and a reform movement sometimes called “Government 2.0.”
However, as NEN director Daniel Homsey reminded me recently, innovation â‰ technology. We must move beyond the allure of new media and tech toys to implement new ideas that will make better cities. As I spoke with Daniel, I thought about how to use new tools to make stronger and more resilient neighborhoods. We discussed using social media – the interactive peer-to-peer sharing networks like Facebook and Twitter – for post-emergency capacity building, or fostering a civil society that can survive and recover from disaster.
In San Francisco, where the next major earthquake will be the defining moment for future administrations and thousands of public employees and neighborhood leaders, the most valuable innovation is in creating citizen networks that can survive and rebuild through major disruption.
My driving interest in Gov 2.0 centers on flattened hierarchies,Â use of modern tools and processes for an efficient government, and adoption of collaboration tools for knowledge sharing and better communication. Increasingly, younger workers and private sector folks who’ve grown up on the Internet and are fluent in new tech tools are radically changing citizenship and government service.
The same tools and culture change that are transforming government could also help in disaster recovery, and, in the near term, tech-enabled large-scale networks can also be used to improve neighborhood cohesion, link volunteers, and tie taxpayers, public employees, and elected officials more closely in purpose and vision.
I’m very interested in how social media and grassroots networks based on Web tools like Ning (see the example of Neighbors for Neighbors) can be used in capacity building. Can the scalability of social media unite and empower civic doers along the traditionally observed “90-9-1″ model of Internet participation, putting together key leaders in the hundreds of San Francisco neighborhood groups with thousands of more passive community members who are informed and empowered by openness and collaborative processes?
Could scores of prominent neighborhood and issue-oriented blogs and static websites contribute to such a network, cross-pollinating their local readerships, supplementing and expanding real-world communities through social media? Could elected officials find value in citizen networks that help provide organic solutions and policy direction?
I think so.ï»¿
Adriel Hampton is a Gov 2.0 and new media strategist, public servant, and licensed private investigator. Follow him on Twitter @adrielhampton or on his blog Wired to Share.