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April 15 2013


San Francisco, a City That Knows Its Faults

Low vacancy, so many homeless people, beautiful old buildings, shuttle buses 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 the 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 San Francisco 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."



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."

A recent report from Spur's "Safe Enough to Stay" estimates that San Francisco needs 95% of its housing to be shelter-in-place. But currently there are 3,000 addresses (15% of the population) that are in a scary thing called "soft story buildings."


A soft story building is characterized by having a story which has a lot of open space. Parking garages, for example, are often soft stories, as are large retail spaces or floors with a lot of windows.

Live in SF? What you can do:

  1. For starters, find out if your house is on the list of soft story buildings, here. And the SF Board of Supervisors recently voted to pass a "Mandatory Seismic Retrofit Program," which will make residents, or their landlords, mandatory to fix these buildings. Might as well check your block, while you're at it. If you are a renter, contact your landlord. If you're an owner, look into some seismic retrofitting.
  2. Check out what sort of liquefaction zone you're in in the map above. If you're in one of the better zones, plan to stock what you need for at least 72 hours while the bigger emergencies are dealt with.
  3. Sign up here to join other San Franciscans looking for better tools to deal with these issues and we'll keep you up to date. At Recovers, we're trying to help San Francisco prepare -- and prepare smartly.

Have an idea or question? Get in touch. We want to help.


Emily Wright is an experience designer and illustrator. She studied at Parsons School of Design and California College of the Arts. Before joining Recovers, Emily was a 2012 Code for America Fellow focused on crisis response and disaster preparedness. She likes pretzels, and engaging her neighbors through interactive SMS projects.

January 12 2012


Pew Studies the Power of Text-Based Donations After Haiti Quake

A simple text message can have a big impact. Mobile giving makes it easy to donate almost instantaneously after disaster strikes -- users authorize a mobile donation by texting a keyword to a specific short code, and the donation is then billed to the donor's mobile phone bill, eventually ending up with the nonprofit of choice.


Following the devastating Haitian earthquake of 2010 that left more than 200,000 people dead and more than 1 million Haitians homeless, mobile donations to Haiti totaled more than $43 million -- the first time mobile giving went mainstream in the United States on a large scale.

On the two-year anniversary of the Haitian earthquake, the Pew Internet Project has released "Real Time Charitable Giving," a report that delves into mobile giving and donors' motivations in the U.S.

The report, a collaboration among the Pew Internet Project, the Berkman Center for Internet and Society, the Knight Foundation, and the mGive Foundation, aims to provide a window into the motivations, benefits, and potential pitfalls of mobile giving campaigns.

Drawn from a sample of 863 individuals who made a mobile donation to the "Text for Haiti" campaign, the survey covers why the users gave, how they learned about the mobile donation campaign, how likely they were to share information about their mobile donation, and how likely they were to remain engaged with relief efforts.

Key Findings

Many of the contributors to the Text for Haiti campaign were first-time mobile givers; 74% of the respondents said that the earthquake response was the first time they had used a mobile device for charitable giving. Many of the users went on to contribute to other relief efforts (such as the Japanese tsunami and the BP Gulf oil spill) through mobile donations, with 56% of the respondents saying they had continued to use mobile donations for other efforts.

Some of the key benefits of mobile giving are the ease of the transaction and the relatively small donation amounts, which make it an easy impulse decision; 73% of respondents donated the same day they heard about the campaign, and 50% of those users donated immediately upon hearing about it. The ease of mobile giving also encouraged the donors to spread the word about the campaign to their social groups; 43% of the surveyed mobile donors reported that they encouraged their friends and family to make mobile donations as well.

Unsurprisingly, the report found that mobile giving attracted a younger, more diverse, and more technologically savvy group of donors compared with the typical nonprofit donor. The majority of the respondents were also more familiar with the little computers in their pockets, using their phones in more ways than just texting or calling (such as taking photos, accessing the mobile web and social networking sites, sending and receiving emails, etc). Less than 40% of average U.S. mobile users use these features.

A downside to the mobile giving campaign was respondents' limited long-term engagement with relief efforts and news following their initial donations; 43% of participants reported that they were following the reconstruction efforts "not too closely," while 15% were following them "not at all." Furthermore, the impulse decision to make a mobile donation meant that there was minimal research into relief efforts before the donation, with only 14% of respondents saying they had researched where the money would go before making their mobile donation.

The spur-of-the-moment nature of mobile donations and the ease of the transaction make mobile giving an easy way to reach a large number of donors, despite the challenges.

Image courtesy of the United Nations Development Programme and used under the Creative Commons license.

August 27 2011


In the eye of Ms. #Irene - mobile technology in times of crisis

As the eastern half of the U.S. settles in for a hurricane-soaked weekend at the conclusion of a week that has already included an earthquake, it’s worth a look at both the challenges and opportunities that exist for mobile technologies in times of crisis. 

paidContent ::  #Irene - The challenge: As we saw earlier this week with the Virginia earthquake that shook an enormous region, many people’s first instinct following a terrible shock is to let loved ones know that everything is fine. But when everyone in a given area tries to make a voice call at the same time, it’s extremely easy for cellular networks to become overwhelmed, which, of course, can also happen to landline networks. 

The opportunity: Data networks, by comparison, held up fine in Japan during its horrible experience with an earthquake and tsunami.

Tom Krazit, paidContent, lists some more instances in which mobile can fall down, but where someone able to overcome the challenge could reap rewards even when the sun is shining.

Continue to read Tom Krazit, paidcontent.org

August 23 2011


Celebrities react to East Coast earthquake

As soon as a 5.9-magnitude earthquake struck the East Coast today, Twitter users jumped online. Web analytics company Chartbeat, which tracks traffic on hundreds of news sites, said it quickly broke previous records for web traffic across its sites, with more than 4.6 million visitors across them and 400,000 in about 15 minutes. BreakingNews.com set an all-time record for simultaneous visits in the moments after earthquake, according to The New York Times’ Brian Stelter.

Celebrities were among those posting reaction and prayers — here is what they had to say.

View “Celebrities react to East Coast earthquake” on Storify

Know of other celebrities Tweets about today’s earthquake? Post in the comments below and we’ll add to the timeline.

August 02 2011


Japan - Risk-aversion measures spreading after March 11 quake

asahi.com(朝日新聞社) :: The devastation of the March 11 earthquake has prompted local governments and businesses to scramble for measures and proposals to mitigate future damage in this natural disaster-prone country. Their growing fears have not only led to flight of business operations to safer areas and raised calls for changes in the power generation system, but they are also rekindling calls to relocate capital functions out of Tokyo.

Continue to read Kenichi Goromaru Staff writer, www.asahi.com

July 11 2011


Japan - A record of the disaster - Google uses Street View tech in Kesennuma

New York Times :: An oddly equipped car made its way last week through the rubble in this tsunami-stricken port city. On the roof: an assembly of nine cameras creating 360-degree panoramic digital images of the disaster zone to archive damage. It is one of the newest ways that Google, a Web giant worldwide but long a mere runner-up in Japan’s online market, has harnessed its technology to raise its brand and social networking identity in this country. 

[Shigeru Sugawara, mayor of Kesennuma:] I’d like them to record Kesennuma’s streets now. Then I’d like them to come back, when the city is like new again, and show the world the new Kesennuma.

Google is using its Street View technology in Kesennuma and elsewhere to make a record of the disaster while tracking reconstruction efforts. In a country with the world’s second-largest online advertising market, after the United States, Google is finally winning new friends.

Continue to read Hiroko Tabuchi, www.nytimes.com


おはようございます "Ohayou gozaimasu" - Japan’s victims: surviving day by day

New America Media :: Minamisanriku, Miyagi Prefecture.–It’s 4:50 in the morning and golden rays of sunshine are already streaming through the glass block windows at the Shizugawa High School Judo Dojo. The sound of rustling blankets can be heard coming from one corner while sounds of snoring emanate from all around.

At 5:30 a.m., Jun Suzuki is standing outside the entrance of the dojo wearing a pair of burgundy sweat pants and a long-sleeved black t-shirt under his black surfboard aloha shirt. While he takes his morning smoke, two ladies walk by and they greet each other with a softly spoken “Ohayou gozaimasu.” It’s a friendly exchange between fellow evacuees.

Suzuki is one of 105 residents at the Shizugawa High School Evacuation Center that sits on a hill above the town where his house once stood just over 12 weeks ago. Most of the residents here escaped with only the clothes on their back. Some, like Suzuki, are just lucky to be alive.

Surviving day by day - continue to read newamericamedia.org

July 04 2011


Japan - In the aftermath, Banana Yoshimoto よしもとばなな receives Italy's Capri Award

Mainichi Daily :: Japanese writer Banana Yoshimoto received an Italian literary prize Saturday that was presented to her for her work as well as to the people of Japan who have survived the March 11 earthquake and tsunami. At the ceremony the 46-year-old author received a plaque and recited a short piece she wrote on what people felt in the aftermath of the disaster that struck northeastern and eastern Japan.

[Banana Yoshimoto:] I was convinced from my correspondences with readers who suffered from the (March 11th) disaster that in any situation, there are people who are in need of cultural nourishment of the mind, such as books.

Banana Yoshimoto (よしもと ばなな Yoshimoto Banana, born July 24, 1964, in Tokyo) is the pen name of Mahoko Yoshimoto (吉本 真秀子Yoshimoto Mahoko), Japanese contemporary writer. She writes her name in hiragana.

Continue to read mdn.mainichi.jp

Official website (en) Banana Yoshimoto よしもとばなな, www.yoshimotobanana.com

June 13 2011


Japan - Mass demonstrations against nuclear power 3 months after earthquake

Mainichi Daily :: Protesters held mass demonstrations against nuclear power across Japan on Saturday, the three-month anniversary of the powerful earthquake and tsunami that killed more than 23,000 people and triggered one of the world's worst nuclear disasters. Streets in parts of Tokyo were completely jammed with thousands of chanting protesters, paralyzing sections of the city. Some marchers called for the country's nuclear plants to be shut down immediately and for stricter radiation tests by the government.

Saturday, June 12, 2011

Continue to read mdn.mainichi.jp

June 12 2011


Visual storytelling - New Zealand one year ago: 10,000 photos for a Christchurch timelapse

lukaskaupenjohann | vimeo ::  - lukaskaupenjohann shot this timelapse together with some friends on his exchange year in New Zealand. They took more then 10.000 photos and put them all together to this timelapse movie. "It was a great way to view this beautiful city and we had the opportunity to get shots from some pretty cool locations."

Christchurch-Timelapse from lukaskaupenjohann on Vimeo.

Tue, Jun 1, 2010 07:10 EST

Visit his VIMEO channel for more lukaskaupenjohann, vimeo.com


Fukushima Japan - Delayed recovery dampens evacuees' hopes to return

The Yomiuri Shimbun Survey :: The majority of the evacuees have abandoned hope of returning to their hometowns due to delays in recovery from the March 11 earthquake and tsunami. The Yomiuri Shimbun surveyed 500 people who evacuated from their homes because of the earthquake, tsunami or the ongoing crisis at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. A combined 47 percent of evacuees from Iwate and Miyagi prefectures hoped to return to their hometowns, down from 65 percent one month after the disaster.

Continue to read www.yomiuri.co.jp


Japan - Wait a little: disaster-hit tiles from Ishinomaki to cover red-bricked JR Tokyo Station

The Yomiuri Shimbun :: About 457,000 tiles are needed for the restoration of red-bricked JR Tokyo Station. Kumagai Master Thatchers Co., a construction company in Ishinomaki  an area, which was hit by the tsunami, was storing tiles for the station's restoration on the grounds. But the disaster scattered them and employees found only about 45,000 so that East Japan Railway Co., or JR East, has now to decide if they should use tiles from Spain and other parts of Tome to make up the difference, but to wait and to use tiles would encourage the people in the disaster hit part of Japan.

[Akio Kumagai, president of Kumagai Master Thatchers:] Using them as a symbol of Tokyo Station will inspire courage in people's hearts and give momentum to recovery efforts.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Continue to read The Yomiuri Shimbun, www.yomiuri.co.jp

June 11 2011


Fukushima Japan - 3 months after earthquake and tsunami still 90,000 living in evacuation centers

NHK World :: Massive amounts of debris needs to be cleared in the disaster-hit prefectures in Japan. Debris removal has not even begun in the evacuation zones near the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. From a total of 52,000 planned temporary homes for the evacuees, currently only about 28,000 have been completed. Many evacuees have declined to move into the temporary housing, citing insufficient support services compared to those at shelters: More than 90,000 still live in evacuation centers.

Saturday, June 11, 2011 07:57 +0900 (JST)

Continue to read www.nhk.or.jp

May 29 2011


Japan - Radio, TV, newspapers, Twitter? Media's role in responding to earthquake disaster

Daily Yomiuri :: Professor Shiro Segawa, Faculty of Political Science and Economics, Waseda University, conducted a preliminary survey about the media and its role in responding to the earthquake and tsunami disaster March 11. He and his research team called on two shelters and interviewed 23 victims in total. The main question to them was which form of media—newspapers, TV, the Internet (PC or cellular phones), or radio—they used a frequently right after the earthquake, one to two weeks after it, and one month after it, respectively.

Findings. On the whole, the most common answer was radio immediately after the earthquake (car radios or battery-operated radios) and newspapers after one week since the earthquake. It is generally thought that Twitter and other social media have played an active role in responding to this earthquake disaster. This only seems to be the case, however, in areas where the Internet was available and without power outage.

Study and findings: continue to read Shiro Segawa, www.yomiuri.co.jp



Fukushima Japan - TEPCO released 17 photos showing tsunami slamming into nuke plant

The Mainichi Daily :: Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO), the operator of troubled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, on May 19 released a total of 17 photographs taken by plant workers in the midst of the tsunami triggered by the magnitude 9.0 earthquake.

Photos published here / continue to read mdn.mainichi.jp

May 28 2011


Japan after March 11 - shizen nōhō, natural farming without chemicals ... or radiation

The Japan Times :: Motegi did not suffer major earthquake or tsunami damage. But soon after the hydrogen explosions at the nuclear power plant, radiation contamination was found on some vegetables grown in nearby prefectures. In Motegi, Toyoguchi and Oidaira sit in the 120-year-old wooden farmhouse they have lovingly restored, and talk about their initial reaction when they heard about the first explosions at the Fukushima nuclear power plants.

We thought about closing up here and starting over in Toyohashi, where I am from, says Oidaira.

But once they'd calmed down, they thought about the years they have spent here in this tranquil corner of Japan, slowly improving the soil of their plots. After talking with other farmers in the area and consulting with organic-farming associations, they decided to stay.

Continue to read Makiko Itoh, search.japantimes.co.jp


Japan's new normal (industry view): how March 11 has changed consumption patterns

CScout | Antenna Japan :: On March 11th, Japan was struck by one of the largest natural disasters to ever hit an industrialized country. CScout: "As a result, consumer behavior of frugality and self restraint, already evident before the disaster, has been amplified".

CScout and Antenna Japan consult companies on how to address changing consumption patterns. They conducted field interviews recently to understand how brands can adapt and innovate out of disaster. The CScout | Antenna Japan video on YouTube below is a sample of the 100 consumer interviews conducted for the full Japan's New Normal report.

Core question of the video: What's Japan's new normal? How can brands adapt and innovate after March 11?

[Woman in the video interview:] I didn't use to care about getting wet in the rain, but nowadays (with the radioactivity) it's a little different

CScout, monitors consumer trends worlwide. The company has offices in Tokyo, New York City, São Paulo, and Mexico City,
Antenna Japan is a team of research professionals who are passionate about capturing category and consumer insights in Japan.

Watch the video here cscout channel, www.youtube.com

"How can brands innovate out of disaster in Japan?" by Michael Keerl, CScout, www.japantrends.com

Corporate site antenna-japan.com

May 27 2011


Japan - NTT DoCoMo allows to unlock new phones in response to March 11th

Japantrends ::  A minor mobile revolution occurred, following the March 11th earthquake and tsunami, when NTT DoCoMo officially announced it would allow SIM unlocking on its new phones, for a small fee. For the first time in Japan consumers see a possibility of a separation between the phone and the payment plan.

Continue to read William Andrews, www.japantrends.com

May 26 2011


Japan - PM Naoto Kan says 20ps of energy to be from natural resources in 2020s

Kyodo News :: Japan's Prime Minister Naoto Kan said Wednesday that Japan will dramatically change its energy policy to be less dependent on fossil fuel and nuclear power, unveiling a new target of generating 20 percent of its electricity from natural resources as soon as possible in the 2020s.

[Naotor Kan, Prime Minister:] Japan will now review its basic energy plan from scratch and is set to address new challenges

Continue to read Takuya Karube, Paris, english.kyodonews.jp


Fukushima Japan - Unit 3's cooling system was damaged by earthquake not tsunami

asahi.com(朝日新聞社) :: Data from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant indicates that the March 11 earthquake--not the tsunami--damaged piping for the emergency core cooling system at the unit 3 reactor, leading to a meltdown, experts said.

Continue to read www.asahi.com

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