The city of San Francisco recently launched “SF72”, an online emergency preparedness site aimed at helping citizens in one of the most earthquake prone places in the country prepare for emergencies. They have an interesting perspective on disasters: “We believe in connection, not catastrophe. Actual emergencies look more like people coming together than cities falling apart. SF72 is about prompting San Franciscans to get connected before an emergency—so we can be that much better off when something happens.”
Mother Nature vs. Human Nature
Do people tend to come together in disasters and emergencies or do they tend toward ‘every man for himself’? If you watched any of the coverage of the aftermath of the Hurricane Katrina you may believe that disasters bring out the worst in people. However, headlines tend to cover the worst and most dramatic stories. Jonathon Katz, a journalist on site in Haiti after the 2010 earthquake, wrote a story about how he saw the news “warping” stories of violence and crime when the truth was, community groups immediately started imposing order. He wrote a story about it and it landed at the bottom of the paper. He also noted the headline story was “Anxiety Mounts in Lawless Haiti”.
The fact is, there are more stories of neighbors (and complete strangers) helping each other during that disaster than there are stories of criminal activity. Crime actually declined after Hurricane Sandy, and this was in the midst of a total blackout in Lower Manhattan. The headline that day read “Looting fears persist as much of New York City stays dark,” however there were only 15 looting arrests in that time period, and those were confined to Coney Island. Katz says the headline should have read: “New York Region Faces Rising Death Toll, Citizens Band Together.”
The SF72 initiative is thought provoking because it brings the fact of human nature to light: The vast majority of us tend to help each other, and communities are capable of creating order on their own.
SF72 encourages people to build varied communication channels and support plans with their social circles before disaster hits. The idea is that the more people who have a network in place to share and receive help, the less chaos there will be and the faster recovery can happen. Here are some of their tips:
- Create a Facebook group with your “inner circle” so you can share supplies and easily send messages via cell phone. This circle might be your neighbors, your congregation, your school, your book club or any other small group committed to supporting each other.
- Add local and national emergency feeds to your Twitter account. Often, Twitter is the first place real-time information is posted. Even if you don’t use Twitter regularly, create an account for use expressly in emergencies.
- Create an AirBnB profile so you can quickly share your place or find a place to stay if needed.
- Post your status to Facebook to let people know you’re okay.
At Wise Company, we believe in this model of helping each other. In fact, we’ve sent emergency meals all over the world in response to major disasters. We also encourage you to get connected now and store extra emergency supplies to share with people such as:
- Warm blankets
- Plastic sheeting
- Freeze-dried and dehydrated emergency meals
- Extra fire starting tools and supplies (like Wise Fire)
- Basic first aid supplies
- Water purification supplies
Learn more about the SF72 initiative here and consider how you can be part of the solution in an emergency.