(From one of our founders, posted on Facebook March 24, 2020)
I contracted COVID-19. The main reason I want to tell my community is because I want to encourage anyone who has come into contact with me or those around me to pay more attention to their health and who you now come in contact with.
It is most likely that I caught it somewhere around the beginning of the this month – March. I do not know if I caught it from work or from my daily life. Testing is so minimal and slow but honestly it’s hard to know where it has come from. Socal health departments have now gone from containment to mitigation which generally means they are not trying to figure out everyone who has it and just assume many people do in the community and to treat and isolate as best as possible.
On March 12 for a couple of days I had a light fever and general malaise. I also exhibited a headache. On March 14 I was able to get a drive through Scripps COVID swab and then it took five days to get the results back. My lightly researched opinion is that Southern California has barely done any tests and certainly doesn’t have a lot of those test results back. We should all definitely expect that there are a lot more cases in our region and honestly since we will not be testing enough we will never quite know how many active cases we have in the community. LA County Health just told doctors to stop testing people in hopes of containing the virus and only if a test could change how they are treated. We likely will never know how many people had it.
I’m sure some are interested in my symptoms and process. I had a fever for 36 hours on and off. I’d say my energy levels are about 15% off and I had a headache for a few days. If I did not work in the medical field and didn’t live in an intentional community, I certainly wouldn’t have made the effort to get a test and would have just isolated myself. Overall, I would say my symptoms equated to the most friendly flu I’ve ever had, I feel pretty great.
Before getting a fever, my approach was to expect that I would get it based on all the virus math graphs that are out there. I certainly don’t think that my measures and medicinal choices had as much effect as genetics and lifestyle choices but I’m happy to share what steps I took once I started feeling sick. The 10 days before I got sick I had done a vegetable juice fast for seven of them, which i actually feel exacerbated the come on of symptoms. But honestly I don’t know as it could’ve made me feel better or worse. From the science behind minimizing a virus that grows in the throat and nasal passages I attempted to remove that growth by flushing down into my stomach and letting the stomach acid burn it up. I used a zinc throat spray, zinc losenges, homemade zinc gummies (thanks Jessica) along with attempting to drink something every 15 minutes. I used a colloidal nasal spray about once every couple of hours. High Vitamin C and some breathe easy teas. I took a bunch of elderberry though the science later came out and said no to that and no to ibuprofen. Both Eti Chall and Kyle Shinners supported me with Chinese herbs but I don’t want to tell you exactly what as depending on symptoms and your personal issues you should really get a video medical assessment and your own specific blend mailed to you. But I did have Chinese herbs daily, still do, and will continue for weeks, even though I’m nearing the end of 14 days. I also leaned on Amy Saloner for knowledge on latest supplements to take if you want to ping her. There are a few more products in the photo. In summary I attempted to minimize symptoms getting worse and virus growing so I didn’t get to the stage of fluid in the lungs and the need for hospital support. I don’t smoke, drink maybe 2 alcoholic drinks weekly and I do high intensity workouts regularly. I’d say my lung health is generally solid.
As far as the Stigma of having COVID and preconceptions with living in an Intentional Community – my community has been amazing. We input social distancing before I had symptoms and have continued to have a strong system for isolation. The community also set up deconstructions stations for boots and hands. Pretty amazing when 20 people come together and agree on excellent bio security measures. I’d also like to say how awesome it is when your work reaches out with such great support and offers to bring anything I might need on many levels. My union, benevolent organization, family relations and medical department have all reached out to check on me and offered to bring me anything I need. The department also is covering anybody’s time for sick leave to ensure everyone who has symptoms has no excuses to stay home. So really appreciate my community, my Chinese medicine doctors, and my work colleagues.
My wish for this post is primarily for anyone who has come in contact with me or those I live with since early March to be more self aware. 97% of people show symptoms within 11.5 days (per John Hopkins), so if you were gonna get it you should know. Though there is some talk that 17% of positive COVID people are totally asymptomatic. So basically everyone act like you may be hosting it, shedding it, and do your best to treat any public interaction as a medical mission for everyone’s safety. “That’s just my opinion, man”.
I feel great now and my family seems to be fine. By SD County Health requirements i will be off quarantine in a couple of days. Be safe, no need to forward this post, It’s for my friends. Looking forward to what scientists estimate will be 2 years of antibodies against the virus. 😐
* I tried to only use public factual info or most understood processes (like 2 years of antibodies). I know there are a lot of opinions on things.
We know you wear many hats, and one of them is as a Realtor. Can you tell us about why you are passionate about Real Estate?
I bought my first house in 1999 as the rental market seemed to be getting too expensive for me and I wanted to freeze my rent for 30 years with a fixed mortgage. After a year of fast equity growth and a growing interest in real estate towards a method of financial freedom, I bought a duplex in San Diego. Since then I have been buying rentals, did a flip, ground up condo builds, and investing in businesses. I love the concept that I can fill my life with interesting work (Navy SEAL, Firefighter, Realtor, overseas contracting, took a few years off) and change careers as I am inspired and allow the investing to be my retirement. I also get to do passion projects like help communities secure their own properties in a co-ownership model. It is not easy work for me or for the budding communities but I feel that it is really some of the best work I get to do. I also help my larger community in buying or selling single family homes and use all the experience of my investments to help create a sound transaction.
Tell us about some of the community properties you have sold.
The first thing I ask of groups is to Diana Leafe Christian’s book, Creating a Life Together. It is sort of the bible on the process of starting your own Intentional Community. In my own community of The Emerald Village i felt like the book didn’t really have the pulse on the concept that a community may start with ten people, end up with 2 near the end, realize they have to move to middle America, find a few new members and then head off and make it happen. At Emerald Village our 10 people visioned and bought our property all within 3 months. I really wanted to share this process and creative financing with as many people as possible. In the first community I helped buy property they ended up closer to Diana’s realistic journey when they had 7 people start the 30 day escrow on 3 houses near downtown San Diego and in that month they lost 5 members and had to finish with just 2. From my history in creatively financing properties I thought money was the biggest hindrance to purchasing cooperative property but since then I realize it’s communication. Imagine you were going to marry 9 other people on a real estate deal, for possibly decades, and all the agreement fields, governance questions, and unknowns that might come up for you in this very legal transaction. I find most people don’t actually know what is wrong or what the questions are, it is just that the deal has too many unknowns. So when helping groups I try to guide them in the direction of meeting and discussing these issues, show them what smooth meeting facilitation can look like, and trying to get real about the unspoken.
What are some things for people to look for when acquiring land for an Intentional Community?
Many people and groups come to me with a dream property that they see listed and all they know is they want this one somehow. They need to figure out who the group/buyers are, how to finance it, what sort of community ideals they connect with, and why they are doing this. The last property that was interesting for community and a good deal also went pending within a week, so not a lot of time to solve the current desired property. I suggest groups use an inspiring property to rally around and discuss all needs and then figure out a plan and when the plan is totally in place then we can look around. There are really so many things to look for in property and it really has to do with specific needs of the group and a need vs. wants mentality because everyone can’t get everything they want. What is most often considered is distance to work / shopping, bedrooms, kitchens, privacy, well water, ability to expand, and ability to finance. When Emerald Village visioned our desired property I would say 95% of the things we wanted could exist on property, like even a helipad, and the things that could not were things like a crystal cavern. Or at least we have not found that cavern yet. The nice thing about doing a visioning with groups I’ve worked with and writing down all the aspects each person wants in an intentional community is that it actually brings together a group that felt they maybe didn’t have a lot in common. Most people want the same thing, a nice place to live. Where they feared there might be incompatibility, such as vegan / meat eater, I witnessed that both sides were happy to ensure the other side felt they were afforded anything they needed to support their choices. I highly recommend every group try a visioning similar to this.
In the end it takes quite a bit of work to solve a real estate purchase of a community property. Meet and figure out what the work is, split the tasks up between each other, and please reach out to me for support.
EVO: So Booda, tell us a little about your EVO experience so far? What brought you here? Is it everything you hoped for?
Booda: Well, I first heard about EVO and took a tour in 2014, since then intentional community living has become a huge value in my life, so a few years ago I decided to get serious about it. I was like most of my friends, I had been talking about community, but I hadn’t actually taken the steps to get real, first-hand experience, so EVO was a great opportunity for that. My initial plan was just to stay for a few months, but I ended up really enjoying living here — the people are excellent and I really got into living in the country.
EVO: Ye haw cowboy! So what it is about EVO that makes you feel like you’re living in the country?
Booda: Well, for example, the first thing I do almost every morning is I go feed the chickens and goats. I also chop wood and make a fire every night in my wood burning stove, but most importantly — I’ve been wearing a lot more flannel and leather — adopting the “EVO style”, as mandated by Kyle Shinners.
EVO: Does Kyle police your fashion choices?
Booda: “Police” isn’t the right word, he’s more like a girlfriend who wants to have sex with you every time you wear her favorite shirt. So at the end of the day, it feels like your choice, but it’s really not. He also bought me a leather hat when we were in Idyllwild that has been nothing short of life-changing since I started wearing it at music gigs. Everyone loves it.
EVO: It’s a really great hat. Speaking of music, can you talk a little about what you’ve done with the EVO Tea House?
Booda: Sure! Last year I converted the Tea House into a rad music venue. It still functions as a community space, but now it has a stage, lights and a great sound system so we can have legit music shows there, kind of like the one we have coming up!
EVO: You must be talking about the show on April 26th with Adam Knight and Angus Wilson!
Booda: Indeed I am, it’s gonna be so fun — those guys are really talented, and we do the shows “in the round” style, which means we’re all on stage together, but we alternate playing songs and telling jokes.
EVO: You are pretty funny, Booda.
Booda: Aw, thanks! I mean, mostly I just say stupid things then put my foot in my mouth. But people seem to enjoy it.
EVO: Yeah we do. Alright, so besides converting the Tea House into a music venue, you’ve also hosted a huge Roman toga party in the pool house, created EVOlympics and now you have a new tiny house and it’s barely been a year. What’s your secret to being such a prolific resident?
Booda: Well I wouldn’t say “prolific”, I just have fun and do whatever brings me joy. I’m just a regular guy.
EVO: Whatever Marie Kondo, don’t sell yourself short — people have been saying you’re the new “Lauren Kennedy”, and that’s a pretty high compliment.
Booda: I’ve never met Lauren but I’ve heard great things, and I probably don’t deserve that kind of praise.
EVO: Humility isn’t exactly what you’re known for, why this sudden change of demeanor?
Booda: I don’t know what you’re talking about, I feel like you’re assuming quite a lot.
EVO: Come on buddy, you’re “Dave Booda.” All the ladies want you, and the men want to be you. You’re practically a local celebrity.
Booda: This is getting ridiculous, I’m really not even sure how this interview got so off track, I thought we were going to talk about community?
EVO: We already talked about that.
Booda: Okay, so are we done?
EVO: I have a few more questions, and a wish.
Booda: A wish? What do I look like… a genie?
EVO: I was just hoping you could play and sing my favorite song.
Booda: No, I’m sorry, maybe another time.
EVO: Come onnnn. Just one song!
Booda: It’s never one song, and you know that.
EVO: But it’s my favorite song.
Booda: You already said that.
EVO: Ugh, fine. Whatever, Mister “local celebrity”!
Booda: I didn’t even say that — you’re quoting yourself. I can’t believe this is happening.
EVO: I didn’t say that, you did. Fake news!
Booda: Really?!? You’re bringing “fake news” into this? I can’t even.
EVO: So just one song? Please?!?
Booda: No, I’m going to back to my tiny home and locking the door.
EVO: I know where you live.
Booda:I know, we live on the same property.
EVO: Okay bye! See you soon!
Booda: Good bye, please don’t publish the last part of this interview.
EVO: I won’t.
What is the work you do?
Currently, I am getting back into sustainable education and program development, after taking some time off to focus on being a mom. 10 years ago, it seemed like I used to teach or facilitate a gardening or homesteading workshop every weekend. Since having my son and moving to EVO, I’ve been focusing more on design work for landscapes and innovative workplaces. It’s been great working with clients to help them express themselves and get inspired by their living, growing environment.
I’m also involved in community organizing, helping bridge between disparate groups around common goals such as gardening, health and wellness, and family. I know it sounds crazy, but I love working with county and municipal officials, because there’s always grassroots ways to help them in their roles as civil servants. Many people find bureaucracy boring, but to me it’s fascinating and I love the challenge of finding consensus between groups that are traditionally in opposition to one another.
How does living in community support or inform the work you do in the world?
I feel like it gives me perspective and insight into a more traditional way of living. A hundred years ago, most people lived like this, and for the majority of human history we knew our neighbors and could rely on them for everything from food, to festivals, to good old fashioned barn-raising. Most people don’t get that kind of connection with their neighbors any more, but here at EVO we regularly come together to build and break bread. So we’re kind of a throwback to that way of being, and when I’m out there helping people connect with their gardens, or organizing an initiative, I bring that sense of remembering to the people I work with and it really scratches an itch many of them didn’t realize they had.
What is the greatest lesson you have learned from living in community?
The greatest lesson I’ve learned while living in community is to listen more and be as present as possible to other people. In fact I believe this is a way to avoid many unnecessary conflicts or misunderstandings. If we really take the time to put the cell phone away, maybe close the door for less distractions, or square away personal time with another person- that person may feel really seen and respected. However, it is when we don’t take the time to be present with someone that we miss the opportunity to understand where they are coming from and that their intentions are more often than not very pure and relatable.
It was a cool and windy day when the dawn finally arose. There was stillness in the air, the crackling of anticipation hanging like a twig in a burning fire. After months of banter and chitchat, the battle had finally arrived. It was a battle of strength, of stamina, of ultimate dominion and dominance to decide who was the deftest and daintiest and most determined of the day. It was of course the highly anticipated EVOLYMPICS and would be held between the ten Founding members and a combination of past, present and future Residents of the same number.
Each team had a fearless captain and they would compete on the hallowed ground of Gopher Canyon in a variety of events sure to test even the greatest warrior. There would be ax throwing, archery, wood chopping and everyone’s favorite, “catch the chicken and carry the egg “. Each team had five men, and five women and scores would be tallied whilst bones would be bruised. In addition, style points were given for the team that looked the best. According to sources close to this reporter, no expense was spared as founders and residents clamored for the cup.
At the opening ceremony, the Residents walked out dressed up as their favorite Founder. You heard it right ladies and gentleman, each resident had usurped clothing from the cupboard of their muse and was parading it like a show pony at the Kentucky Derby. This reporter had to take a drink as the Founders marched in dressed as Viking Warriors armed to the teeth with metal and leather looking mean and green. The two teams faced off head to head as the judges separated them, the class struggle palpable.
The games were opened by a competitive game of ax throwing as the Viking Cloverias ousted Nick while the artist pretending to be Amy defeated her doppelganger the stunning, yet out of practice Red Warrior Queen. I’m not afraid to say that this reporter has a serious crush on the RWQ and had to take a couple more sips off the ole hip flask to curb his enthusiasm. The event finished as the oddly shaped Bianca defeated Flavius Nicolais while ReBonHomme tied it up for the Vikings with a stellar win.
Unfortunately for the residents, the wheels of the horse drawn cart began to fall off as they took a stinger in the ringer in archery, and got a bopping in the chopping, putting the Vikings clearly ahead at the end of the individual competition. Showing judges and spectators why they have so much fur in their closets, the Founders were clearly a force to be reckoned with.
By the time the chicken and egg relay race came upon us, this reporter had more than his share of Meade and progressively passed out. Upon waking up it was revealed that the trophy had somehow been given to the children, who were beating up the inflated sumo wrestlers on the main lawn. Everyone was laughing and celebrating, toasting to healthy competition and a jovial day. Tune in for future fun and games from the Emerald Village. Over and Out.
Let’s have a meeting.
What do you think about when you hear that phrase?
Do you imagine a boardroom and a bunch of people listening to powerpoint?
Do you imagine a fresh cup of coffee with friends?
Do you imagine someone has proposed this because “we need to talk”?
Are you excited?
Are you nervous?
Are you looking forward to it?
Are you dreading it?
Regardless of your association, we would all agree that having meetings is inextricably linked with being human. Every collaboration, every tribe and every baby being born all came from some kind of meeting. Meetings can be creative and exciting or they can be routine and boring — but at the end of the day, we need ‘em. And when you live in community you need lots of ‘em.
On Sept 22nd and 23rd, we had a meeting. We called it our fall retreat, and it was a chance for us to come together to discuss what we learned and where we’re going as a community.
Since we have a lot of meetings we like to make them fun, so for example, during our “year in review” in which each circle shares about what they’ve been up to (a circle is a group of people responsible for a certain aspect of life here at EVO), the members of the circle presented their information in a fun way. Some circles sang a song, some did an interpretive dance, some put together a slideshow, and everyone had a grand old time. See what our Human Relations Circle shared about our last year together.
For many, the highlight of the weekend was showing off how much work they had done on their zones. How it works at EVO is each family (and residents) have areas of the property we’re responsible for maintaining. To make things a little more fun and competitive, we all threw in $10 and voted on our favorite zones (you couldn’t vote for your own zone) and the winner got to keep all the money. Although it was a tight race and everyone was very impressive the winners were Jonah, Rebecca ad baby Raewyn, who added an intangible cuteness factor that tipped the scales in their favor.
Speaking of meetings, our monthly potluck brunch is coming up on Sunday October 7th. It’s a great chance to come see all the work we’ve done on the land and get some quality community time! We work on the land from 10am-11 (or you can take a tour during that time) then we brunch hard at 11am. Kids are totally welcome and we look forward to seeing you there 🙂 Sign up HERE
Lots of love,
Many people ask us about how the Emerald Village began. At the inception of EVO, we had not all been best friends for years, nor did we share religious beliefs, as in many other communities. What was the common thread between ten people who decided to buy land, start an intentional community and build a life together… Burning Man.
Nine years ago, ten burners came together and asked themselves some questions. How can we bring the principles that create the culture of Burning Man into our everyday lives? How can we use our energy that we’ve put into going to the Burn for years, into something more lasting and sustainable? (Don’t get me wrong, we still go to Burning Man, when it calls us.) How can we raise our children with the influence of ten adults who have explored self-expression on the playa?
As this Burning Man week is in full swing, we reflect on our beginnings. Further, we reflect on our years together in the grand experiment that is the Emerald Village and how it mirrors Burning Man. As growing individuals, we reflect on our successes and our shortcomings in living the ideals of the Burning Man culture.
Overall, I believe we have done a remarkable job. This weekend, on Friday night we will share a meal together lovingly prepared by one of our community members, for the 20 people living on the land. On Saturday morning, starting at 8 am we have our monthly “blitz” day where we work for four hours building and beautifying. While the adults work, our children will rotate between music and archery lessons. Some of us will celebrate Burn Night dancing under the stars and spinning fire, while others will be curled up at home caring for their newborn baby. On Sunday, the sisters of EVO will go out to brunch together while the men and one of our all-star residents hold down the fort with the children. There will be music playing while much love and laughter is shared.
Burning Man truly has become a way of life for us now. We are forever grateful for the times that we’ve spent on the playa and all we have learned about ourselves there. We send our friends at Burning Man this year much EVO love. Maybe one day we’ll make it to the Burn together to share more of our experience building and living in community where it all began.
Blog post written by co-owner and co-founder Leyla Makris. Check out more of her life work of sharing recipes, crafts and blessings to inspire and delight at The Harvest Honeys. Follow her on Instagram.
We have a few folks who share time with us at EVO for extended stays. Krystin Railing joined us last year and has been sharing her event, performing and water talents with flair.
What is the work that you do?
Hello, my name is Krystin Railing, I am a resident here at the Emerald Village, living in the Bridge House. I am a professional circus performer, production manager,fire walking instructor, and certified swimming coach. I initially moved to the Emerald Village to assist with teaching the children swimming, but I also assist here with events, gardening, and husbandry programs.
How does living in community support your presence in the world?
As a community builder, living in the Emerald Village has giving me a hub for my community members to gather for events like photo shoots, music jams, circus shows, pool parties, fundraisers, trunk shows, movie nights, speaker series, game nights, and bonfires; just to name a few activities.
What is your greatest lesson learned living in community?
Living in community, you are surrounded by mirrors reflecting yourself back at you. One of the greatest lessons I have learned while living here is how to see myself through other people’s eyes.
Krystin has taught swimming for a number of years. She teaches the EVO kids in our pool and has lots to share about how to be safe in the water.
Beach and Water Safety Tips
1. Learn To Swim: Learning to swim is the best defense against drowning. Teach children to swim at an early age. Children who are not taught when they are very young tend to avoid swim instruction as they age.
2. Swim Near a Lifeguard: The chance of drowning at a beach without lifeguard protection is almost five times as great as drowning at a beach with lifeguards.
3. Swim with a Buddy: Many drownings involve single swimmers. When you swim with a buddy, if one of you has a problem, the other may be able to help. At the very least, have someone onshore watching you.
4. Check with the Lifeguards: Lifeguards can advise you on the safest place to swim, as well as places to avoid. They want you to have a safe day. Talk to them when you first arrive at the beach and ask for their advice.
5. Learn Rip Current Safety: If you are caught in a rip current, remain calm and don’t fight it by trying to swim directly to shore. Instead, swim parallel to shore until you feel the current relax, and then swim to shore. Most rip currents are narrow and a short swim parallel to shore will bring you to safety.
6. Enter Water Feet First: Serious, lifelong injuries occur every year due to diving headfirst into unknown water and striking the bottom. Body surfing can result in a serious neck injury when the swimmer’s neck strikes the bottom. Check for depth and obstructions before diving, then go in feet first the first time; and use caution while body surfing, always extending a hand ahead of you.
7. Obey Posted Signs and Flags: Read the signs when you first arrive and please follow their direction. Flags may be flown by lifeguards to advise of hazards and regulations that change from time to time. You can usually find informational signs explaining the meaning of the flags. Or just ask the lifeguard.
8. Wear a Life Jacket in a Boat: In a boating accident, your chances of avoiding injury or death are greatly improved if you wear an approved life jacket.
9. At Home You’re the Lifeguard: NEVER leave a child alone anywhere near a pool. Make sure it is completely fenced, that the fence is locked, and that there is no access from the home to the pool. Don’t let your children get into the pool when you’re not there.
10.Use Sunscreen Everyone loves a sunny day, but exposure to the sun affects your body. Without sunscreen, you can be seriously burned. The sun’s rays can also cause life-long skin damage and skin cancer. To protect yourself always choose “broad spectrum” sunscreen rated from 15 to 50 SPF, or clothing that covers your skin, and reapply sunscreen regularly throughout the day. The sun can also dehydrate you quickly.
11. Drink Water Drink lots of water and avoid alcohol, which contributes to dehydration. Lifeguards treat people for heat exhaustion and heat stroke from time to time. If you feel ill, be sure to contact a lifeguard.
12. Keep the Beach and Water Clean: Nobody likes to see the beach or water littered with trash. Do your part. Pick up after yourself and even others. Everyone will appreciate it.
Jonah the Firefighter
What is the work you do?
At an attempt in creating a life balanced in doing work that fuels me, having actual free time at home, and not working just to make money but doing that which fulfills my life goals I have created 8 income streams/investments in my life. REALTOR. Firefighter. Boochcraft business. H&G business. 6 rental houses. Vanguard. Military benefits. Home gardens, eggs, milk, & honey. I work as a firefighter 10 days a month which was a conscious decision at 41 years old to ensure that I’m getting time doing emergency problem solving activities to feed that need and basically getting paid to workout and all that comes with a job like that. I’ve been a REALTOR for years and it’s a compliment to my real estate investing. The main consideration with all the work/investments I do is that I can do meaningful work while still having 4.5 days a week at home to be on the land or working on passion projects. Since I was 15 I’ve been actively investing with the understanding that if I ensure my retirement is handled I am free to follow my heart in any work I currently do.
Jonah the Community Man (second guy from the left)
How does living in community support or inform your presence in the world and what lesson has it provided?
Before community I could show up to events as the best version of myself, hold that field the entire time, and leave the lesser parts of me locked up at home. Living in community is a constant mirror on ourselves, showing us daily if we are living in integrity with all people and systems we agree to. The 8 years I’ve been at EVO feels like a daily practice to show up in my highest and learn to constantly improve myself. I bring this integrity, appropriate behavior, and right relations to the greater community in ways I don’t believe I could have done without living in an Intentional Community. Intentional Community is “adulting” education in a big way, there is no college education for this work.
Some fire season tips:
- Most wildfire house fires in urban environments come from embers entering the attic vents. Cover those vents with plywood or metal when a fire is within 10 miles.
- Make your house accessible for fire engines and leave them a note/whiteboard at your driveway if you have a pool or water source and that you did work to prep your house for fire.
- Do a practice day of packing and evacuating, it will be great to figure out what you don’t know. Have a list of where/what are all the things you will take with you as well do some prep on where you might go. I know multiple people who have had to leave with nothing but pets and clothes they were wearing, best to be a little prepared.
- Be safe.
Nick Heyming, co-owner and co-founder of The Emerald Village and Disaster Tools has a long history with disaster relief dating back to Hurricane Katrina. He has recently brought together his passion for interactive gaming, strategy and disaster relief to bring innovation and support across the globe to help millions in need.
Here is what he had to say about his work and how it impacted our community when we were faced with the Lilac Fires:
The Emerald Village has been a source of constant challenges and opportunities. Since we founded it 7 years ago, we’ve all had to deal with balancing our private lives, our professional careers, and the many obligations that come from owning and maintaining a large property. Over the last few months this became particularly clear, as circumstances in the outside world confronted us in unique ways.
I’ve been working on an app to teach people gardening called Seeds for the last few years. We developed a prototype for it and have tested it around the village. This past fall, after a slew of hurricanes had devastated the Atlantic, and fires were raging in Santa Rosa and Ventura, my team decided to pivot and take the engine we’d developed for Seeds and use it to coordinate relief and information before, during, and after disasters. We call the project Disaster.Tools
, and after working out the engineering and data architecture were contacting relief organizations from Texas to Florida to the California Wine Country to see how we could best assist them.
One morning last December, after a night where I spent hours discussing the gaps in relief with the Santa Rosa fire recovery, the whole village came together to do fire mitigation. We fired up our chainsaws, pulled out our brush clearing gear, and busily spent the whole morning removing dead trees and other fire hazards opposite our creek. As we were wrapping up, we looked into the sky and saw smoke wafting over the hill.
We must have had some premonition of what was to come, as the Lilac fire proceeded to engulf the senior center where my Grandmother lives two canyons over, and over 4000 acres burned as winds whipped the flames from Fallbrook to Oceanside. The whole village came together, and we stayed up late into the night setting up ember watches, coordinating evacuation plans, checking on neighbors, and figuring out logistics for our crops and farm animals as electricity and water went out.
It was intense going through our houses, surveying all of our possessions for the things we couldn’t replace. It was a relief to have people like Jonah, Navy Seal and Firefighter, help us prioritize, or Jessica, who’d been spearheading our emergency preparedness plans, help us rally and coordinate. It was particularly intense for me, having literally spent the last day writing disaster preparedness guides for fire response, and having spent the last few months creating Disaster.Tools
. All these hypothetical situations we’d been describing suddenly became real.
In the end, we were fortunate. Our community was spared by the fire, and even my grandmother and aunt somehow escaped the blaze that swept through their neighborhood. Over a hundred families in the area were not so lucky though. My team with Disaster.Tools ended up partnering with the Burners Without Borders and San Diego VOAD to send work crews out to those impacted by the fires, helping them sift through rubble, clear burnt landscaping, and get ready to rebuild. It was sobering work, seeing what could so easily have happened to us, but it did provide us an opportunity to give back, as well as to test the tools we’ve been building in a real-life disaster response.
We’re going to continue to develop the Disaster.Tools app, hopefully with a public version accessible in time for the coming hurricane and fire seasons. If you’d like to help, please send me a message at firstname.lastname@example.org
, we’re in a seed funding round right now and could particularly use assistance with UI/UX. If we learned anything from the last few months, its the importance of everyone coming together to help each other out in times of need.