Drill, then party.

Phinney Hub will participate in a city-wide communications drill on Saturday, July 29, 9:00 AM – 12:00 noon. We’ll set up our canopies and radio antennae in the parking lot of Phinney Center (Phinney Ave. N & N 67th St.).  The emphasis of this drill is “Hub-to-Hub communications,” so we’ll work with brother/sister Hubs to transmit information throughout north Seattle.

Subsequently, in September, we’ll have a party at Linden Orchard Park (Linden Ave. N & N 67th St.). The exact date is to be determined. The City of Seattle recently decided that P-Patch gardens will be the default gathering places in an emergency, throughout the city. See this announcement. We’re working on getting in touch with our P-Patch neighbors at Linden Orchard to plan this neighborhood-wide social event together.

This is what a Block Leader looks like

Great story in Seattle Weekly about Byron Hardinge, a Queen Anne resident who exemplifies what a Block Leader can be.  He’s a CERT member, CERT trainer, and SNAP instructor, and he’s poured his energy into getting his neighbors ready for a big quake.  (CERT is the Federal citizen response program, and SNAP is the City’s.)

This article has an excellent discussion of what people on the block need to think about for earthquake response – the best I’ve seen in the mainstream press.

Read the article at Seattle Weekly.

Community Preparedness Network: first meeting sizzles with purpose

The first meeting of the Community Preparedness Network drew 32 experienced neighborhood organizers to learn about creating earthquake response teams on residential blocks.  The room was bursting with energy!  Speaking personally, it felt good to meet so many mature, intelligent people who are devoted to the welfare of their neighbors and their community!

CPN is a new effort to recruit and support Block Leaders – people who take responsibility for reaching out to their neighbors.  Many people have begun organizing their block, but they often hit a roadblock after the initial meetings.  It’s difficult to figure out exactly what to do to build coherence and expertise in the response effort.

The Community Preparedness Network will link Block Leaders to one another to exchange experiences and knowledge.  We can learn what works and what doesn’t.  We can help each other develop and use Tabletop Exercises and other teaching tools.  And we can give each other social support in the sometimes lonely work of organizing our neighbors to face disaster!

A work plan is forthcoming, based on the intense energy of our initial meeting.  If you want to learn more about becoming a Block Leader, please email me at CPNseattle@gmail.com.

–David B. for CPN

Neighbors are the key to survival

A commenter on the PhinneyWood blog pointed us to Professor David Aldrich, whose research shows that social networks are key to survival and recovery in disasters.  NPR did a story.

The research concerns less-developed countries (India), or places with more cohesive social bonds than we have here (Japan, New Orleans).  In Seattle – as in many American cities – we may not even know the people on our block or in our building, much less trust them.

Our challenge is to open social channels while also teaching specific disaster response skills.  Not trivial!

Preview of a new strategy: “Block leaders”

The most important task in neighborhood earthquake planning is also the most difficult: block-level organizing; that is, helping people educate and organize their close neighbors. Phinney Hub is beginning a new focus on supporting and educating individuals who want to become “block leaders” to reach out to the people who live nearby.

After a major earthquake, neighbors will be the only available responders.  Professional responders – Fire, Medical, Utility, Police – will be overwhelmed with emergency conditions throughout the city. The 9-1-1 system will be similarly overwhelmed. Neighbors will be the only source of help in the hours and days immediately following a major quake.

Quick and coordinated action on the block is necessary to prevent the spread of fire (from leaking gas lines) and to treat life-threatening injuries (from objects thrown around inside houses). Professional responders speak of “the Golden Hour,” the 60 minutes after a disaster during which most lives can be saved and most damage averted. After a major quake, it will be neighbors on the block who respond during that Golden Hour.

The City of Seattle and the State of Washington each have block-level organizing programs, which take slightly different approaches. “Seattle Neighborhoods Actively Prepare” (SNAP) emphasizes different “teams” with responsibilities like utility control, first aid, and search-and-rescue. The state program – “Map Your Neighborhood” – emphasizes knowing in advance where gas meters are located, and who in the neighborhood may need special care.

Both programs require meeting with the entire neighborhood in advance (or at least with as many people who will come to a meeting at someone’s house). Obviously, this is the best way to get people involved, in the abstract, but it can be daunting and impractical to collect a block full of busy neighbors to discuss a disaster that no one wants to believe is actually going to happen. Follow-up – that is, keeping interest alive and preparations current – is always a problem.

We are going to experiment with a different approach. In organizing Phinney Hub, we have discovered that a small number of individuals – a fraction of society – have the interest and capability to lead their neighbors in organizing for disaster. We intend to focus on those particular people, providing education and support as they work to organize their blocks. Our theory is that it is most important to have a few people on each block who are thoroughly prepared and ready to lead. In a crisis, they can be the nucleus of an organized response.

Are you one of those people? We want to talk to you! Please attend our meeting Wednesday, September 2, 7:30 p.m. at Phinney Center to help us launch our new strategy. Or email us at phinneyhub@gmail.com.