What not to do during a Red Flag Warning.

“Red Flag Warnings” are issued when there is a high risk of wildfire in the region. Here are some simple preventive steps you can take.

1. Clear dry and/or flammable materials away from your house.

Do a quick walk around your house, and keep an eye out for brush, dry leaves, or dead branches and make sure to move them away from your house. If you’re feeling friendly, do it for your neighbor’s house, too! Continue reading

What Recovers does, and what it means for you

When recovering from a disaster, it’s crucial to have someone in your court who understands the process — similar to how wedding planners makes weddings go more smoothly, accountants ease the complex process of filing taxes, or real estate agents help make negotiations when buying a house more navigable. Continue reading

San Francisco, a city that knows its faults

Low vacancy, so many homeless people, beautiful old buildings, shuttle busses to silicon valley… and warning, I’m going to talk about earthquakes. If it gets scary, stick with me: there’s good news at the end, ways to better understand the specific risks facing San Francisco, and some easy places to start.

Let’s Talk Numbers
After the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake, 11,500 Bay Area housing units were uninhabitable. If there was an earthquake today, the current estimate (from Spur) is that 25% of SF’s population would be displaced for anywhere between a few days to a few years. However, San Francisco’s top shelter capacity can only serve roughly 7.5% of the overall population. And that is only for short term stays in places like Moscone center. So where would the remaining 17.5% of the population go?

1. Some people may decide to leave the city and start over somewhere else (something called “outmigration”, which is not ideal for the economic health of a city).

2. And some people take longer term housing in vacant units around the city. But this is particularly tough in SF because vacancy is currently at an all time low of about 4.2% vacant units.

3. This brings us to the most ideal scenario: staying put. Something referred to in the emergency management world as “shelter-in-place.”

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What is Shelter-in-Place?
Shelter-in-place is “a resident’s ability to remain in his or her home while it is being repaired after an earthquake — not just for hours or days after an event, but for the months it may take to get back to normal. For a building to have shelter-in-place capacity, it must be strong enough to withstand a major earthquake without substantial structural damage. […] residents who are sheltering in place will need to be within walking distance of a neighborhood center that can help meet basic needs not available within their homes.”

Continue reading

Why I’m coding for Recovers

Crossposted from codeforAmerica.org/blog.

My year as a Code for America Fellow was a whirlwind. Last January, inspiring thought leaders explained local government, startup processes, and the art of negotiation. In February we had 100+ meetings about problems in our city, and a boatload of suggested solutions we could build.

By March, I had something akin to an information hangover. We were ready to get started, but didn’t know the best place to begin. Once the team had picked a direction — in our case disaster preparedness and crisis response — the race began. With only a year, the feedback loop is fast, and the learning curve, steep. The closest comparison for me is downhill mountain biking: riding downhill, moving fast, and hopefully responding faster. Once at the bottom, having managed to not die, and still atop a bike, means you probably did an okay job. After all, in civic tech you might also be the only one who tried. De facto “best” at doing that thing despite yourself.

However, one sentiment shared across many of the fellows this year was that we weren’t done: there was more work to do. Sure some of us were done with parts of it, like the stipend, or being called “interns” or a nickname I came to dread, “the codies.” In such a fast-paced environment, we’d barely had a chance to correct and account for all the stuff learned along the way.

At the end of the year it was surprising how many options were open to me. Being able to show initiative, gumption, GitHub repos, and have ownership of projects being used out in the wild, solving real problems was incredibly valuable. Options are great — they can also be really overwhelming — and despite all of them, nothing really is a logical “next step” for a Code for America Fellow.

When Recovers.org, one of CfA’s Accelerator companies focused on crisis response and disaster preparedness, mentioned their team would be growing it took awhile to set in that I really could keep trying to tackle the issues I honed in on during my Fellowship in Austin. I could take what I learned and apply it to stuff.

I’m really excited about my new gig as Design Director at Recovers.org. I count myself as lucky to be working with an awesome team, doing important work that’s interesting, fun, and makes the world a better place.