What’s on our minds

We couldn’t have said it better!

It’s always satisfying to hear others humming to your beat. The New York Times published an article a few days ago that hums to ours.

In How to Prepare Your Community for a Disaster, New York Times writer Alan Henry summarizes an interview with Mitch Stripling, assistant commissioner of Agency Preparedness and Response for the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, and co-host of “Dukes of Hazards: The Emergency Management Podcast.”

The main points the article brings out are

  1. Community resilience starts at the neighborhood level. Neighbors need to be acquainted and ready to help each other when things go wrong.
  2. Existing local organizations—coffee shops, parent-teacher associations, book groups, etc.—strengthen community ties, and are great starting points for improving disaster preparedness awareness and planning at the neighborhood level.
  3. Neighbors should develop a plan for how they will communicate and work together in the event of a disaster.

We at Creative Crisis Leadership heartily endorse these points. We’d like to strike a beat of our own, though: It is as important for neighbors to develop the skills needed to improvise a plan in the event as it is to develop one in advance. The article actually hums a bit to that beat as well,

“it’s important to get your group ready to improvise. Building your group into a team that can react to different types of events is more important than being ready to run any one evacuation plan.”

— Mitch Stripling

The hum of the article rests on a bass note of individual initiative:

“However, a lot of the support structures that foster the sense of community that led people to look out for one another have degraded, Mr. Stripling said, and it’s up to individuals to bring them back to life.”

We couldn’t have said it better!

Thank you, Palo Alto-Stanford Citizen Corps Council

Last night, the Palo Alto-Stanford Citizen Corps Council honored our work with a Community Partner Award. During the award ceremony, Ken Dueker, Director of the Palo Alto Office of Emergency Services, praised our emerging program saying that, “we think this is very promising and has tremendous potential.” (Or words to that effect—I’ll get an exact quote from him later.)

A number of people were intrigued by the brief description and have asked to hear more about it. I’ll be following up with Palo Alto Mayor Liz Kniss, Louis Morrone from Marc Berman’s office (State Assemblymember), and Brian Sherin, Chief Operating Officer at the Stanford Linear Accelerator, among others.

We were very honored to be put in the same class as the other honorees:

  • US Health and Human Services, Disaster Medical Assistance Team, CA-6
  • Ce Ci Kettendorf: Block Preparedness Coordinator (BPC)
  • John Mori: Community Emergency Response Team (CERT)

Thanks to the Palo Alto Emergency Service Volunteers and the Office of Emergency Services who have been critical to getting us this far:

Ken Dueker, Director of the Palo Alto Office of Emergency Services, whose belief in the ability of people to help themselves is creating a fertile environment for innovative approaches to community preparedness.


Nathan Rainey, Palo Alto Emergency Services Coordinator, who has tirelessly found answers to “what would really happen if” questions, and made sure we have the latest and best conventional preparedness materials and information to hand out.


Annette Glanckopf, indefatigable champion of Palo Alto community preparedness, CERT, co-director of the Palo Alto Emergency Services Volunteers, and game-master-in-training for our neighborhood earthquake popup.


And the official pictures:

2017 Community Partner Award recipients with Major Liz Kniss and Louis Morrone


Left to right: Major Liz Kniss, Susanne Jul, Annette Glanckopf


Thanks to everyone who has gotten us this far. I am deeply honored and encouraged to have our work so well recognized at this early stage.

Another earthquake strikes Palo Alto!

On Nov 11, 2017, a major earthquake struck Ross Ct in Palo Alto CA. Here’s the full report.

21 residents, 3 dogs, and 4 cats smelled gas leaks, watched a transformer fizzle and spark, and were without water and power for several days. Afterward, they were joined by 2 of their neighbors and 6 volunteers for lunch.

This was, of course, not an actual earthquake, but our second pilot event. We are happy to report that it was, if anything, even more successful than our first.

Here’s the summary:

  1. Kudos to Carrie, the local organizer! A stunning 75% of the households that were invited participated:

    (And, sadly, thanks to the many recent disasters around the country.)
  2. Except for one participant who had to leave because of childcare commitments, everyone stayed active throughout the event.
  3. Participants were very enthusiastic about what they learned about preparedness in general, their own state of preparedness, and (re-)connecting with their neighbors.
  4. We saw many instances of neighbors talking to each other. We even delayed beginning the debrief session because one group of six neighbors were having an animated and productive discussion about who had what resources.
  5. The game controllers were fully engaged, and all reported having had fun. We should have them running events on their own soon!

On the less successful side,

  1. Communications with participants during the game did not work well. As in, at all. This was a combination of some participants’ lack of familiarity with group texting, vagaries of text message delivery, and tribulations of typing on tiny telephone keyboards.
  2. There’s good confusion and there’s bad confusion. We still need to eliminate the latter from game materials and instructions.

Of course, there’s room for improvement in other areas, but we are ready to work on routinizing event organization, and developing game controller orientation and training.

The good news is that we are in conversations with different people about four possible events in the spring. We hope to turn them into two separate event series.

Getting rid of your nightlight could save your life

Bedtime reading


Flashlights. They’re on every list of Things You Should Have in Case of Emergency. Keep one in your car, in your briefcase, next to your bed. That’s good advice.

But let’s talk about the one next to your bed. Are the batteries still good? Is it buried in that clutter in the drawer? Could you find in in the dark? And remember how to turn it on? Even if you are more than half asleep, and the room is half filled with smoke? Or a big jolt to the bed woke you up, and things are falling all over you, the bed, and the floor?

A problem with many emergency preparations is that people make them, and then forget them. Drawing up a detailed evacuation plan, and putting a flashlight by the bed is good. But it won’t help if you can’t find the flashlight, and don’t remember the plan.

So, get rid of your nightlight!

Instead, when you have to get up at night, use that flashlight. It’ll be bit cumbersome at first, but you’ll get used to it quickly. And, guess what? Should there be a fire or an earthquake in the middle of the night, you won’t be stumbling around in total darkness. You’ll automatically reach for your trusty flashlight. And it will be in good working order. If you’re somewhere unfamiliar, such as in a hotel room, you’ll be even happier when you find it in your hand.

The key to unpreparedness is to turn quotidian needs into opportunities for practicing habits that will save you in crisis. In other words, find ways to do what you do every day that will continue to work when things go wrong.

By the way, while you are putting that flashlight by your bed, mount it securely. It won’t help you if it’s gotten tossed across the room.

Oh, and slip on a pair of shoes when you stumble to the bathroom at night, too. There might be glass and other pokey things on the floor one night. Or you might have to run through the yard.

And the flashlight in your car? If your phone has a camera, it probably has a flashlight feature. Practice using it whenever you can.

The key to unpreparedness is to turn quotidian needs into opportunities for practicing habits that will save you in crisis.

Question: What suggestions do you have for developing habits that will serve you in an emergency?