Are you in Crisis mode yet? Why not?

Today is Crisis Camp, just in time for the Great California Shakeout of 10.21.10. So what is Crisis Camp? And why should YOU be in Crisis mode too?

Crisis Camp is a global, organized, volunteer approach to creating a Crisis in a Box – tools and plans for dealing with disaster. The world over, techies and non-techies come together to do what they self-name “speedgeeking.”

Folks, even if you’re not really into the bits and bytes of our modern times, Crisis Camp has got to be acknowledged as one of those pure moments of the absolute best of human nature. You’ve got people, worldwide, donating time, brain cells and valuable skills to try to help each and every one of us in case, God forbid, the worst happens.

When I went to Haiti last February, I got an up close and personal look at just how bad “the worst” can be. You might tell yourself that we’re somehow different, here in the Bay Area. That such a thing could never happen here – not to that degree. Not with bodies in the street, no water, no place to pee, mass injuries and crude amputations, days that turn to weeks with widespread sexual assaults and thousands upon thousands camped out in public parks under plastic sheets. Unfortunately, I hate to be the one to tell you, but I just don’t think that’s true. Sure, we have better building codes. We have structural engineers. We have a government that is not now nor ever will be – we hope – a failed state. Plus we’re pretty well nourished going into any disaster. Right?

But here’s the thing. All those reassuring factoids depend on one huge assumption – that Mother Nature will never b*#ch-slap us hard enough to undo all that. Give us an 8.3 on the Richter scale and, frankly, we’re Port au Prince. And I mean eerily, exactly like Port au Prince.

You can’t be in Port au Prince and not see the chilling similarities. Both cities are horseshoe-shaped cities on a Bay. Both have close-to-the-water landfill that shakes like a bowl of jelly. Both, in a disaster, would have almost no ability to transport casualties in and out – except by water. What if all the tunnels and bridges collapse? What if there’s no power for weeks? What if gas mains San Bruno all over the place? Who would be in charge here? Who would control our airport? Would it be South San Francisco, or San Francisco, or San Jose? Will CNN planes be allowed to land while medical evacuations and supplies are being delayed? Who will make that call? How long would it take relief trucks to trundle their way over the surrounding hills, down to the Peninsula and then back up to the city? Just like in Haiti, who would have absolute authority to tear down what’s left of extremely valuable homes so that dangerous rubble could be cleared?


It goes on and on. The similarities are huge. It’s clear that when a disaster of Haitian magnitude hits (like in Pakistan, and apparently more and more often), the ability to respond will be, certainly in the beginning, from the ground up. You have to plan for there to be no “top down” help. It is, in the purest sense, WikiSurvival. I was so frustrated with what I saw and experienced in Haiti (a failed “top down” approach if there ever has been one) that I spent the last six months creating a tool for disaster workers. It’s called the Memoriam app. Memoriam is designed to allow any relief worker to speak for the dead. And to help the vulnerable and displaced by walking any aid worker through the process of collecting a DNA sample, taking photos and GPS tagging a body as it is uncovered. It can even be used to report a lost/displaced child, or even a sexual assault. Then Memoriam’s compiled report can be sent by email to any interested, receiving agency – government, NGO or anyone with an email address. It could be the ultimate, distributed, citizen-reporting tool.

Because mass casualties need mass-access to help.

Personally, in less than two weeks, I’m going back to Haiti for another relief trip. I’ll share with you how Haiti’s changed – or not – since February. The first priority is giving aid, and we’ll also be beta-testing Memoriam for release soon the app store.

But in the meantime, let’s all spend just a bit of time being in Crisis mode. And today, donate your time, your thoughts, your expertise, and your interest. Got your water? Got your supplies? Got your family plan? And get ready to participate in our state-wide earthquake simulation on 10/21/10 at 10:21am during the Great Shakeout. It’s like the world’s biggest flash-mob. Organize your local group to meet, greet and plan for the worst. And have fun with that!

Because the best of human nature is out there, waiting to be connected.

Got a disaster story to share? Do YOU think Port au Prince and San Francisco are similar, or not? Share your take in the comments section. Are you a Doc Gurley fan? You can follow Doc Gurley on Facebook. Doc Gurley is the only Harvard Medical School graduate, ever, to be awarded the coveted Shoney’s Ten Step Pin for documented excellence in waitressing, and is a practicing board-certified internist. You can get more health posts at, or jump on the Twitter bandwagon and follow Doc Gurley. Also check out Doc Gurley’s joyhabit and iwellth twitter feeds – so you can get topic-specific fun, effective, affordable tips on how to nurture your joy and grow your personal wellth.

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