KHQA / iso.form

I’m a public health emergency manager; I’ve worked this Covid-19 pandemic for almost a year. But like everybody else, in March I got sent home, reeling. I’ve worked maybe twenty disasters, always in Emergency Operations Centers (EOCs), always managing twelve hour cycles with action plans like clockwork and (sometimes) free coffee. As urgent as the work was, these EOCs ran on the camaraderie of professionals struggling to make the right calls in impossible situations. This time, instead: My desk, four kids, a national tragedy beyond reckoning, and an iPhone.

In the 1930s, my grandfather built a two thousand acre farm…


Today is Election Day, 2020, and I don’t feel like putting up a selfie with an I Voted sticker.

Today feels like the long drawing of a bow across a violin string, a single note tuning for the unknown orchestra that follows.

Down in the catacombs at Green-Wood cemetery in Brooklyn, three weeks back, I heard the only thing that felt like a natural call response to today. A tenor named Ivan Thompson recited this poem by Langston Hughes. Not just recited it: Called down words from heaven as lightning injected into that hallowed ground. …


An emergency manager urges us to think bigger in fighting the pandemic.

Food Relief in Lamont, California Source: TJ Cox

In October of 1918, influenza deaths spiked horribly in Oklahoma City. The poor collapsed in higher numbers, hospitals wouldn’t take them as patients, and there was no free housing to isolate contacts. Appalled, forty prominent residents marched into the Mayor’s Office, unannounced, and demanded the Public Safety Commissioner’s resignation. Then, they mapped the city, recruited volunteers to knock on every door and addressed every issue they found.

This spirit of local ingenuity — call it disaster innovation — has been a part of every major American catastrophe. Think of the clothing drives after the San Francisco earthquake in 1906 or…


An emergency manager compiles lessons on closing and reopening schools from the 1918 pandemic.

School reopening is on everyone’s mind. Many people are writing about the need to open schools as an emergency; others say that reopening is a disaster in the making. Almost nobody is writing about the lessons we have learned about the mechanics of closing and reopening schools safely and transparently.

So, let’s take a crack at that, shall we? As an emergency manager, I compiled stories on what school districts did during the 1918 Influenza Pandemic and how it worked in order to help parents and school officials wrestling with this planning now.

(BTW, all glory to the U Michigan…


(Warning: Minor spoilers for Game of Thrones below. )

It’s true that none of us in the crisis or disaster arenas has a pet direwolf and we don’t wield a massive sword called Longclaw (or most of us don’t). Still, I don’t think we’re that far off in considering Jon Snow the ultimate emergency manager. Here’s why:

(Sidenote: Clearly, we’re talking about Game of Thrones’ Jon Snow and not epidemiological legend John Snow, even though (little known fact) John with an ‘H’ ALSO had a pet direwolf — his was named Soho and spent most of its time guarding water…

Mitch Stripling

Mitch Stripling is an emergency manager based in Brooklyn who has responded to more than a dozen federally declared disasters.

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