This week, our team met with our community partners, Neftali and Daniel, for the first time. We learned about the Neighborhood Empowerment Network (NEN) and its mission to help communities establish good practices that enable them to be resilient in the face of disasters or other unforeseen challenges. In particular, we are to work on a subproject of the NEN called the Strong Homes Campaign, which helps neighborhoods on the outskirts of downtown San Francisco come up with ways they can react in a disaster. The NEN is planning to put together a charrette with field experts to create a disaster toolkit that can be used in pair with this consultation service.
Having discussed ethical service in class, we feel it necessary to raise some questions about the project that may challenge some aspects of service we have deemed critical. For example, the charrette seems to be a place for experts to share opinions, but will not have any input from the direct community. What are the ramifications of this approach? Furthermore, we are skeptical of the comparisons Daniel makes between Puerto Rico and San Francisco. Considering cultural/political/economic differences, how realistic is that comparison? Such questions are worth asking since the impact of preparing a project for community survival requires utmost attention to detail. These are not issues that can be taken lightly, so we must be constantly critical of decisions we are making to check whether our product will be realistically useful in real world situations.
Following our meeting in class, we were assigned to take over updating the project plan, and were invited to a conference call on October 6th to discuss our roles in the charrette in more depth. We found out that our role is to moderate and take notes of the discussions in the charrette, as well as give a 10-15 minutes presentation on events happening in Puerto Rico and what lessons could be learned from the disaster there. Based on the results of the charrette, we are then to put together a plan for the toolkit. For our presentation, we personally would like to also consider other scenarios, such as Hurricane Harvey in Houston and the recent 7.1-magnitude earthquake in Mexico City as other applicable analogies for a potential disaster in San Francisco. In an effort to abide by the Principles of Ethical Service as outlined by the Haas Center, we will make sure to seek advice from our community partners first and respect their expertise. This ties into the question posed by the same principles: Is it appropriate and valuable to mutually establish a partnership agreement or a MOU? In our case, we need to decide whether our Stanford team acts independently or “under the wing” of the NEN.
Recent events in places such as Mexico City, Houston, and Puerto Rico have demonstrated that members of the impacted community are a great reactive force in helping a city recover from a natural disaster. Should a similarly devastating event hit the Bay Area, we imagine that the members of our local communities will be just eager to help each other out. After all, during a major disaster altruistic actions feel like the natural calling. But what about when we, as a city, are not immediately faced with a major disaster? In these times, many of us do not have disaster service at the forefront of our mind. Thankfully for us in the Bay Area, we have the NEN which is taking proactive actions by helping our communities prepare for such an event.
The USGS currently estimates a 72% chance for the San Francisco Bay Region to experience an earthquake of magnitude 6.7 or greater by 2043. A quake of this size can sufficiently damage many of San Francisco’s resources including streets, highways, private buildings, and public areas. Additionally, damage within the integrity of water lines and waste systems would not be surprising. For a city like San Francisco which may have much of its population stranded within its perimeter after such an event, how can further damage or loss of life be mitigated? This is where NEN’s toolkit plays a vital role.
NEN’s toolkit will prove to be an invaluable tool to the citizens of San Francisco, but it is not yet complete. There are still many things to be ironed out and much more to be considered. In the coming weeks, our team hopes to ask the questions that will help the professionals of NEN build the best version of the toolkit. Our questions include the following: What can citizens do to maintain their security from opportunistic criminals? Camping on one’s own personal property for up to 3 weeks has been discussed; what about for citizens who do not have personal property they can utilize? Can the toolkit assist them in an alternative way? Possibly by instructing them on how to safely exit the city or how to survive for up to 3 weeks in a public space?
Our team has much to learn as far as how we can help in the creation of this toolkit. Researching past events, analyzing the struggles that citizens had during these events, and understanding how these struggles could have been mitigated is only the beginning of it all.