There is confusion about the purpose of Hubs, especially now that the City is supporting a variety of models. We have Emergency Communications Hubs, Community Emergency Hubs, cultural Hubs, and faith-based Hubs. Additionally, we have SNAP groups (Seattle Neighborhoods Actively Prepare), Community Emergency Response Teams (CERTs), and, hovering above us like a great eagle in the sky, the Auxiliary Communications Service (ACS), the Ham radio network with its seven sectors among which the Hubs are divided.
I have been in six meetings with Hub organizers in the past few weeks (Lake City, Magnolia, West Seattle, Phinney, Greenwood, and the Hub Captains general meeting), and I have heard some very smart people struggle to understand and explain how the Hubs are going to actually help people in an emergency.
One reason for this is that the problem we are trying to solve is overwhelming. In the face of a magnitude 9.0 Cascadia Subduction Zone earthquake – expected any minute, according to the State of Oregon – it is hard to see how anything we do can help. If we are, indeed, facing the widespread destruction of our most basic infrastructure – along with thousands of deaths and tens of thousands of injuries – then it’s hard to see how setting up a tent in a park or a parking lot is going to make any difference at all.
And yet, it does make a difference, and here’s why: The people who participate in the Hubs are transforming themselves from victims into responders. They are claiming the power to respond to catastrophic events rather than be destroyed by them. It is the claiming of power, rather than any particular mechanism to do so, that is vital. And it is that claim to power that we, as organizers, must support.
I have my own ideas about how to do this, which are not better or worse than anyone else’s ideas. I think we need to re-imagine preparedness education at the household level, because the only resources that will be available to neighborhood responders are already in people’s basements. Or they’re not, which would be a problem.
But my specific ideas, or anyone’s specific ideas, are less important than the fact that we are talking to each other. The Hubs movement started by Cindi Barker is part of an historic moment in community organizing, because it has sparked a claim to power by people all over the City. In other political arenas, as well, we see people rising up to transform themselves from victims into responders. All these movements are, ultimately, expressions of the same impulse.
To clarify the purpose of the Hubs, we must keep talking, we must focus our mission, and we must refine our methods. We must learn to navigate the in and outs of local politics. We must penetrate the clouds of distraction that fog public discussion. We must “listen first,” to understand how people want to claim power in their own lives, and then we must help them. In this way, we claim our own power, and we ourselves are transformed.