Block party organizer FAQ

by | Jul 24, 2017 | Training

How long does the event last?
Half a day: 3 hours for the simulation, and then however long the party afterwards goes. Usually, we do the simulation from 2-5, and then hang out for a BBQ or potluck dinner.

Who should I invite?
Everyone on your block, in your building, or in your complex. The goal is for everyone around you to get to know each other. So you don’t want to limit it to people who already know one another.

Can kids take part? What about visitors?
Yes, kids, visitors, pets, everyone can take part. In a disaster, you will have to look after everyone and everything who happens to be nearby. This is a chance to think about what that would really be like.

Can you tell me more about the effort involved in organizing?
There are three areas of work for you: promoting the event, coordinating food, and setting up on the day:

Promoting the event involves going around to invite everyone personally. This usually takes two rounds of 30 minutes or so.

  • Coordinating food can be as simple as asking everyone to bring something for a potluck. Or you could recruit someone to help cook up a BBQ.
  • Setting up on the day is pretty easy. It involves setting out barricades (if you are closing the street), and a table for sign in (later used for food). We usually ask people to bring their own chairs. There’s always people willing to help with cleanup.

There are a few other planning and coordination tasks, but we make them as simple for you as we can.

One household can manage it all. But we strongly recommend that you recruit one or two neighbors to help. That not only makes it easier and more fun, it gets neighbors working together from the outset.

What do you provide?

  • Everything need for the simulation, including the people to run it.
  • Examples of and help, as needed, with
    • A checklist and timeline for what you need to do.
    • Design for flyers and other promotional materials, and talking points for introducing them.
    • Help with applying for street closure permit, and a Know Your Neighbors grant.
    • A link where people can sign up for the event. This will include questions about food as needed.
    • Draft text and email addresses of participants for any messages you might need to send out.

What do you need from me?

  • A place where we can set up headquarters for the simulation. You’ll need to provide us with a table big enough for two laptops, an internet connection, and access to a toilet.
  • Water and snacks for participants during the break in the simulation.

What about money?
Your expenses are for food and copying flyers. Our expenses are for simulation materials and event insurance. We’ll work with you to set a budget. We’ll also work with you to apply for a Know Your Neighbors grant from the City of Palo Alto, if there are funds available.

What’s the simulation like?
The simulation is a combined disaster simulation and interactive game. We ask participants to imagine that a catastrophic earthquake has occurred, then go through the motions of dealing with concerns that have come up in their own homes, and around the neighborhood. The goals are to practice using the materials and people at hand, and to learn from each other.

What’s the timeframe for this?
We’d like to have all events completed by Thanksgiving. If you want to be outdoors, you’ll want to hold your event by mid-October.

You’ll need to start promoting your event at least 4 weeks in advance to get on people’s calendars.

Why are you doing this?
We believe that events such as this build community, and increase local resilience to disaster. So we are working to develop a package that makes it easy to organize an event, and simple to run the simulation. By organizing an event now, you’ll be helping to create something that many others can use in the future.