More about Sandy Response, and also cool presentation tools
facilitated by Willow Brugh
- 1 About Geeks Without Bounds
- 2 The GWOB Response to Sandy
- 3 After Sandy
- 4 Rules of thumb learned from the response
- 5 Volunteer cycle
- 6 What can go wrong in the cycle
- 7 How to prevent burnout
- 8 How did Occupy Sandy come about?
- 9 Preparing for the next storm
- 10 What place does activism have in disaster response?
- 11 More about Willow
About Geeks Without Bounds
- Geeks Without Bounds links makers and hackers to humanitarian organizations. http://gwob.org/about
- It is not their policy to deploy employees and members directly to disasters, but some members do so on their own.
The GWOB Response to Sandy
- Willow is one of these members who chose to go, and volunteered with the FEMA Innovation Team.
- She was there with people from Health and Human Services, Burning Man infrastructure, along with Department of Homeland Security search and rescue and military assistance.
- GWOB tends to think of the affected population as the "end users", as opposed to traditional response, which views the first responders as the end users.
- FEMA has tons of oversight and is therefore clumsy.
- Community resiliency = better connections with neighbors!
- Putting people in weird, formal situations where they are required to stand in long lines = confusion.
- Channels of communication were limited - in some places, cables were physically severed in the storm.
- Many gas pipes were also busted, so people were without gas, electricity, phone, internet, t.v., etc.
- People flock to success, which can actually result in too many people and resources in one place!
- Once a response site is up and running smoothly, send successful people from that site to get a new site running somewhere else (coms, dispatchers, etc.)
- Google docs were an essential tool.
Rules of thumb learned from the response
- People need predictability.
- Bring stuff to people, not people to stuff.
- Manage volunteers well. Know what is needed FIRST. Vet the volunteers first, then put them to work.
- The best and easiest online donation management tool was the Amazon wedding registry to keep track of needs and then be able to ship donations where needed. You "need a header file" for people and objects.
- Hear about response!
- Go somewhere!
- Get assigned!
What can go wrong in the cycle
- A volunteer gets bum advice and gets misassigned.
- A volunteer is otherwise confused about where they are supposed to go.
- The task may already be complete, so they get pulled into a different set of efforts
- After too many cycles of confusion, they burn out.
How to prevent burnout
- Celebrate the hodgepodge nature of civil defense work!
- Get good report backs from the people you've assigned work to.
- Help everyone stay involved!
- Celebrate the work of people, involve them in the celebration
How did Occupy Sandy come about?
- Started on googledocs and Interoccupy
- Based on the idea that Occupy is mutual aid, not just protests!
- More a hippie feeling than the "black block hard heads".
- They were able to mobilize more quickly than many other groups due to extensive experience in person-to-person interaction.
- Faith-based orgs came later in some places, but fit in well.
Preparing for the next storm
- Relationships with other NGOs are already in place for the next disaster!
- The next disaster, they will be more ready to respond.
- Moving from Word docs, Excel, pivot tables, etc., to Sahana, open source disaster response software.
- Open sharing standards are needed so that different tools can be integrated and interact with each other.
- The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Human Affairs (OCHA) has started using HXL, a humanitarian markup language! There have been hackathons done on improving this language, and there is so much interest that it will be run into the ground (in a good way)!
- Normally, people wait for the International Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) or the International Organization of Standards (ISO) to set the standards.
- However, in order to have agility, you need to be able to make up standards as you go!
- Now is "ramp up time". Activists need to be planning ahead right now for the next storm or other disaster.
- Scenario planning is happening at Camp Roberts Relief with support from STAR-TIDES at National Defense University.
- It's like a trade show for defense people to practice disaster relief. But without the trade (no sales allowed).
- They are now bringing in civilians and ad hoc groups as well.
- Other crisis camps can also give you the chance to practice for disaster before it hits.
- Pitch it as zombie planning!
- Great place to get new ideas and information
- Special hardware needed in a disaster:
- Pirate Box
- Backup drives
- MOSH networks
- ASYNC networks
What place does activism have in disaster response?
- This is the big, main, essential question!!!
- Sometimes there is conflict between full-time pros and the occasional support people.
- An analogy of why both are needed is a professional vs. volunteer fire department.
- Don't replicate bad social relationships.
Where activists fit in
- Ad hoc groups don't wait - they get there first.
- They focus on helping the poor, not just the suburbs.
- They fill in the gaps and deficiencies of government, military, and big NGO groups.
- Make your activist tools capable of asynronous interactions and they'll work in disaster situations, too. Great opportunity to get more people on your platform.
Examples of activist achievements
- National Guard and Occupy working together
- Voter engagement concurrent with community and disaster response!
- Getting info to "low-info" folks (important caveat, make sure you are receiving good information as well as transmitting it)
Why government and NGO response isn't enough
- Since FEMA is part of the Department of Homeland Security, it got fucked up under Bush.
- Things like evacuation can't move quickly enough in a "top down" structure. Technically agile activists can get it done much faster.
- In big NGOs, the top and bottom of the org is usually filled with good, hardworking people, but the middle management gets in the way.
- It's good to come at a disaster with different languages, world views, etc., since the victims will be a cross section of cultures.
Helping people transmit info
- Good design and infographics are essential to help people understand maps and charts.
- On crisis maps, people need to know:
- Where to get water and food
- Where to charge their phones or other essential electronics
- Where they can upload their own info
- ASYNC transmission is very helpful on temporary networks.
More about Willow
- College transhumanist
- She "got tired of white privileged white kids sitting around talking about a future, so got involved with maker spaces so it was privileged white kids building a future."
- Has been involved with Occupy, women's groups, etc.
- Involved in Space Federation (http://schoolfactory.org/spacefed), a hacker-maker coalition dealing with finances, law, zoning, etc.
- Then joined Geeks Without Bounds (http://gwob.org)
- Main skill set is organizing, facilitating, and public speaking.