Popup report OR 7 Reasons to be Pleased, Delighted and Grateful

The official report for the Pepper/Olive Neighborhood Disaster Popup is out!

I was going to summarize it for you. But decided that you could get an impression of what happened from this writeup and this post, and reflections might be more interesting than regurgitating dry facts.

So here are 7 reasons that I am pleased, delighted and grateful:

  1. I am pleased that we made it happen! The Creative Crisis Leadership collaboration is making the move from Skype conversations to tangible outcomes.
  2. I am very pleased that we made a bunch of mistakes, had some differences of opinion, and discovered a few fundamental variations in working styles. We are learning to work together.
  3. I am delighted that everyone had a good time, and that neighbors mixed, mingled, and got to know each other.  (OK, give people a great summer day, free food, something to talk about, and nature will take its course. Still, it’s a relief to see the party succeed.)
  4. I am thoroughly delighted that participants got the conventional preparedness insights we were hoping they would. Even more that they picked up on some of our spontaneous leadership lessons. (I want to believe that this was because our embryonic theoretical framework came through, and not because it’s all deeply obvious. Time will tell.)
  5. I am totally delighted that participants got into the spirit of the participatory learning experience. They clearly explored their own realities and capabilities, and walked away with deep insights.
  6. I am grateful to the City of Palo Alto for having the courage and wisdom establish the Know Your Neighbors grant program. It made the event possible, and helped us focus on neighborhood relationships.
  7. I am deeply grateful to the people who made it work:
    • The residents, who showed enthusiasm and interest, whether or not they could make it,
    • The participants, who gave freely of their time, attention and selfies,
    • Yugen, who spontaneously brought out a canopy, traffic cones, and wickedly fun go-karts,
    • Michael and his students, who provided live music,
    • Rohini and Anil, who took some great pictures,
    • Annette and Leanne, who knocked on doors and introduced “media” color,
    • Esther, Al, and Hamilton, who provided radios and ground coordination,
    • Archer and Bo, who managed text and photos in 18 messaging conversations at once,
    • Ford, who produced lunch, snacks, and dinner for 40 people, then quietly cleaned up and vanished, and Jason, who slaved over a hot grill,
    • Scott, Raminder, Eshan, Simona and Adeline, who designed and distributed flyers, and managed the street closure,
    • Anupa, who brought festive ribbons, talked to half the neighborhood, and magicked the zero-waste party-pack up (and away), and
    • Aaron and Zeno, who made the learning experience a reality.

In short, I am pleased, delighted and grateful that the event affirmed an early piece of feedback:

“You’re onto something here!”

What did participants do during our pilot event?

After having read the feedback forms, and looked through the text messaging transcripts, we can definitively declare our pilot event a success. There is much room for improvement, but we demonstrated that the model is viable and appealing to participants.

The event was held on May 20, in the Pepper/Olive neighborhood in Palo Alto. We had 31 players representing 17 households. This is approximately 42% of occupied households. An excellent turnout!

Everyone reported having learned something, around specific conventional preparedness measures (e.g., water resources) as well as around mental preparedness. Some of the takeaways were particularly encouraging:

  • “[I have a] better sense of available resources, including the people around us.”
  • “What to do in a disaster is about being in control of one’s emotions, sense of well being first.”
  • “Calming down is really important in really bad disaster moments.”

and, most affirming from the Creative Crisis Leadership perspective:

  • “[I] feel more positive and proactive after second simulation.”

We are working on a detailed analysis and report. In the meantime, here’s a taste of what happened.


Participants practiced duck, cover, and (sometimes) hold:
They recognized they have valuable resources at hand:
Identified main electric, gas and water shutoffs:
Were creative in getting to trapped family members, and solving problems related to water, food, and sanitation:

Looked out for each other:
And played at the BBQ:
Meanwhile, behind the scenes:


Experiencing an Earthquake and Building a Neighborhood

Our roaming reporter, Annette Glanckopf.

By Annette Glanckopf / May 25 2017 / Palo Alto CA

Last weekend, the Ventura neighborhood of Pepper and Olive Avenues in Palo Alto experienced a magnitude 4.3 earthquake along the San Andres followed by a 7.4 earthquake on the Hayward fault. Damage was significant across the bay area – no power, no water, no phones/internet and many structural failures, and bridges were down, freeway overpasses collapsed. This quiet neighborhood escaped the worst but still experienced massive shaking, broken items and glass, fallen water heaters, cracks in walls with continuing after shocks.

Not to worry. It was a neighborhood drill led by Susanne Jul of Creative Crisis Leadership in conjunction with Palo Alto Emergency Service Volunteers.

18 households participated. The drill consisted of a pre-event briefing and 2 rounds of scenarios. When the drill started each house was given an individual packet of earthquake impacts to their household that happened immediately after the quake and 3 days after. After residents experienced this first round, there was a period of reflection and discussion. The residents then received a second set of scenarios that again included immediate impacts after an earthquake and conditions three days after. During the drill, residents communicated their solutions to coordinators by sending photos and text messages. Coordinators stayed in touch with each other via hand-held radios.

The twin goals of this exercise were for neighbors to learn about the importance of emergency preparedness and for team leaders to study how people respond to disasters. After residents solved this set of problems, the group came back together for a final debriefing and sharing of experiences and lessons learned before a neighborhood BBQ,

Residents were resourceful during the 3 day scenario. Among the neighbors who were interviewed,

  • Scott and Simona organized a daily community potluck to share perishable items. This nourished all as well as provided a location for the community to come together and discuss how they felt and share news.
  • Probably the most prepared was William, who lives in his Dodge van. Since he experienced the Loma Prieta earthquake, he is always stocked with sufficient food, water, and batteries to be self-sufficient for days. He added that he always knows where things are kept.
  • Louis was also well prepared. He had extra water, camping and emergency supplies in his back-yard cache. He reported that he charged his cell phone from his car’s power outlet. When interviewed, he was making repairs to his cracked walls with his extensive tool collection.
  • Karen reported her water heater fell, spilling out all the water, even though it was strapped to the wall. Luckily she had a good supply of bottled water. After the first wave of shaking, she headed over to nearby Molly Stone’s – one of the first to arrive – and she luckily was able to stock up on key items. She commented that “ I didn’t realize how unprepared I was and couldn’t find a flashlight or extra batteries.”
  • Nicholas and his family knew to get under the dining room table when the shaking started. Unfortunately their dog got out of the house. Caring neighbors brought the dog back hours later, finding its home via the dog tags, Nicholas also reported that they were well prepared with supplies and water and had less broken glass than most.
  • Alaria said “so far, so good”, although her home has massive cracks and structural damage. She shut off her utilities, and now will have to wait till the city can come to turn them back on. She asked, “When will city services be restored?” Her cat disappeared, and must be hiding in some nook and cranny – maybe under the bed

At the end of the exercise, many important lessons were shared.

  • Water was recognized as the most important item to store. Most folks had bottled water or an extra supply in their sheds/garages
  • Don’t turn off your gas unless you smell, see or hear gas escaping
  • Have a sturdy pair of shoes close by, since there will be much broken glass
  • Don’t go near downed power lines, or any downed lines, even if you think they may only be phone lines. Stay 60 feet away. Close area off with garbage cans, furniture & signage.
  • How to use a fire extinguisher – pull pin, aim, spray back and forth at base of fire
  • Resources (water, food, power) are likely to be unavailable for 7-10 days, or even longer

Everyone reported learning something new. But the most important outcome was neighbors reaching out and helping other neighbors, realizing, as in this small corner of Palo Alto, that your best resource is your closest resource.

This neighborhood event was a pilot for Creative Crisis Leadership, whose mission is to understand and entrain spontaneous leadership skills. The goal is to increase community resilience by helping ordinary people practice improvising collective action in a crisis. The simulation was developed in cooperation with City of Palo Alto Office of Emergency Services. The event was supported by Palo Alto’s Know Your Neighbors Grant Program. To learn more about Creative Crisis Leadership see www CreativeCrisisLeadership.org.org or contact the Driving Force, Susanne Jul, at SJul@CreativeCrisisLeadership.org.

Annette Glanckopf is a regular with Palo Alto Emergency Services, where she serves as a CERT volunteer and NPC coordinator.

Tell us what you think!

We are getting ready to make our venture public. That includes launching this website. Before we do so, you can help us by providing your feedback on the website and our effort.

Click here to tell us what you think (or go to the “Quicklinks” menu). It shouldn’t take more than five minutes if you’ve already looked at the website.

Thank you for your input!

Spontaneous leadership in the wild

There is no substitute for the real thing. We hope to field a small team of researchers sometime in 2017 for a field-based case study. This is contingent on the vagaries of disaster, funding, and prior commitments. In the meantime, we are working on ways to identify and connect with spontaneous leaders while an event is unfolding.

Aaron Vanek

Aaron Vanek has nearly 30 years experience playing and creating games, primarily liveaction and table-top roleplaying games. He has worked with many national non-profit, community, and commercial organizations to produce fun and engaging learning events. He has published numerous tabletop role-playing game adventures as well as critical theory essays about live action roleplaying and its use in education. His creative talents are enhanced by teaching analog game design and robotics in elementary and middle school, and by 20 years working in film and video production and exhibition.

He is current vice-president of The Game Academy, a 501c3 non-profit organization that produces and utilizes role-playing games to teach.

Aaron is the lead designer for our immersive learning experiences.

Research roundtables

We combine emergent leadership and improvised crisis response. There are others who are interested in each of these areas. To learn from and encourage their efforts, we would like to hold a series of virtual roundtable discussions. These sessions would allow researchers and practitioners to explore key topics of interest together.

Zeno E. Franco, PhD

Zeno Franco brings a background in clinical psychology, community engagement, the psychology of crisis response, and heroic action to throw light on the relationship between individual action and group behavior. He is widely published on topics ranging from evidence-based approaches to treatment of PTSD to philosophies of translational research to community engagement in crisis research. His networking talents puts him in many meetings and discussions, in professional as well as community organizations.

He is an assistant professor in Family & Community Medicine at the Medical College of Wisconsin. He currently chairs the Board of Directors of the Heroic Imagination Project, a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization that teaches people how to take effective action in challenging situations. His doctorate is in Clinical Psychology.

Zeno leads our research in the areas of human behavior and crisis management.

Susanne Jul, PhD

Susanne Jul has an long history of designing, managing and delivering projects of such diverse types as academic research, product design, theatrical productions, and disaster preparedness and response. Her research publications are primarily in human cognition and software design, and disaster management. A gifted public speaker, facilitator, and workshop leader, she revels in getting people to think. While developing Creative Crisis Leadership, she continues to work as a User Experience consultant, advising on, researching and designing software product usability.

Susanne is CEO of Amaryllis Consulting, LLC. She currently chairs the Advisory Council of ISCRAM (the International Association for Information Systems for Crisis Response and Management). Her doctorate is in Computer Science.

Susanne is our overall mastermind and driving force.