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Disaster Preparedness

The goal of Joint Venture's Disaster Planning Initiative is to make Silicon Valley the world's best example of regional planning and preparation. Why? So our residents feel safe and secure—because we know The Big One is coming—and so our economy can recover as quickly as possible.


In 2011, Joint Venture completed its three-year Disaster Preparedness Initiative by successfully transitioning the project to a freestanding National Disaster Resiliency Center based at Moffett Field, the first collaborative facility of its kind on the West Coast.

Incubated by Joint Venture with seed funds from the Department of Homeland Security, Santa Clara County and the California Endowment, the NDRC is located at the NASA Research Park. Steve Jordan is the CEO and Raelene Wong, director of global business continuity for Applied Materials, has been seated as the board chair.

Read the complete news release here.

In 2009, Joint Venture embarked on a regional, cross-boundary initiative in the area of disaster planning and emergency preparedness in order to:

  • Provide support and assistance to the public sector bodies in their preparedness efforts
  • Integrate private sector activities more effectively with public sector ones, and facilitate collaborative planning
  • Mobilize additional private sector participation (and resources) to supplement public sector activities
  • Introduce the regional dimension to these efforts, which currently take place within delineated local jurisdictions, or within functional boundaries
  • Significantly raise public awareness and participation, through town meetings and reports to the community

The Challenge

The horrendous scene we witnessed in New Orleans with Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath—including especially the failed integration of local, state, and federal relief efforts—is a subject of compelling and continuing interest to the Silicon Valley region. The reason is of course obvious: we live and work at the intersection of several major, active fault lines, and we know it is only a matter of time before a calamitous seismic event rocks our own region. New York’s experience with the 911 terrorist attacks, Hurricanes Rita and Wilma, and more recently the possibility of an avian flu pandemic underscore the importance of systematic, broadly-based, carefully integrated, public and private sector planning for area-wide disasters. Is our region fully prepared? Not completely.

To be sure, our cities and service units are extremely conscientious in their respective efforts, leveraging scarce resources to maximize response within the limits of their jurisdictions. Our first responder and mutual aid capabilities are superb, and we are in a good position to field single point disasters—e.g. those which only affect one institution or a limited geographical area. We do not, however, have a thoughtful, carefully researched, properly documented, vetted, or tested plan to respond to an area-wide disaster, such as the large-scale earthquake that is certain to visit the Bay Area.

Nor does any other major metropolitan region exhibit such a plan, one which fully accounts for large and small municipalities, is truly regional, comprehensive in scope, and incorporates public, private, and nonprofit sectors. A large-scale disaster will require an extraordinary effort to respond to the immediate deaths, injuries and physical damages. Such an event will also require a massive effort to meet the food, housing, medical, and public safety needs of our affected residents. We can expect help and assistance from the federal government, to be sure. However, experience has shown we don’t know how much to expect, and how soon to expect it. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is charged with responding to disasters and coordinating a variety of services, including food, shelter, first aid, temporary housing assistance, and rebuilding. The Army Corps of Engineers is also mandated to take part in local rebuilding efforts. But the Gulf Coast disasters revealed significant limitations in what these bodies can do, confusion over roles and responsibilities, and unfortunate delays in their response time.

It seems quite clear that America’s regions should view federal assistance as a secondary resource. Regions that are fully prepared will have a plan to mobilize local resources and provide their own response. Given the massive scale of the effort that will be required, it seems foolish to expect that response and recovery effort can be carried out by the public sector acting alone. Our government agencies and institutions are already operating at full capacity, and don’t have the resources to scale upwards. It is unreasonable to expect these bodies to operate above capacity when disaster strikes; clearly, additional resources will be necessary. The private sector, therefore, must become a full partner in our preparations for a major catastrophe. Our best hope as a region is for an integrated, public-private disaster plan, one which will require a great deal of careful planning, out-of-the-box thinking, the establishment of many new alliances and partnerships, and routine testing.

A Bold Vision for the Silicon Valley Region

On this basis, our vision for this initiative was simple and straightforward: we would like to know with complete certainty that our region is prepared. We would like every man, woman, and child to go to sleep at night with the assurance that disaster can strike, because we have done everything we can think of; mobilized the resources we require; set funds aside; achieved a codified set of agreements on protocol and procedure with state and federal officials; built in multiple layers of redundancy, and put firmly into place a set of well-rehearsed plans and procedures. In so doing, we would like our region to be considered the model for the nation and the world. The civil disorder that occurred in New Orleans is preventable if we create the basis for confidence and trust in our regional leaders when the crisis hits.

We can’t do everything at once. So our first priority, to which we dedicated nearly all of our effort, was to establish a state-of-the-art Disaster Resiliency Center at Moffett Field. The Center will integrate teaching, training, and research while at the same time serving as a base camp for the response and recovery effort when disaster strikes. Joint Venture was awarded $150,000 in seed funds from the Department of Homeland Security to move the Resiliency Center out of the concept stage and into implementation.


Steering Committee

Kirstin Hoffman, Director, Santa Clara County Office of Emergency Services
Jim Wollbrinck, San Jose Water John Sweat, Lockheed-Martin
Bruce Lee, Director, Emergency Medical Services Agency, Santa Clara County
Dan Holley, Professor, San Jose State University
Robert J. Dolci, Director of Emergency Services, NASA-Ames Research Center
Lt. Colonel Steven Butow, Deputy Operations Group Commander, 129th Rescue Wing, California Air National Guard
Guna Selvaduray, Executive Director, Collaborative for Disaster Mitigation
Peter Ohtaki, Bay Area Director, Business Executives for National Security
Kenneth S. Dueker, Coordinator of Homeland Security, City of Palo Alto Police Department

Steven Jordan and Major General Peter J. Gravett (Ret.), Co-Directors


In the event of a regional emergency, business as usual won’t be good enough for Silicon Valley. Getting our economy firing again, quickly, will require unprecedented levels of planning and cross-sector collaboration. Joint Venture is working to provide it.

"Public–private collaboration is going to be the fastest way to get Silicon Valley back on track in the event of a disaster."
Liz Kniss, Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors

"You can’t manage something if you don’t know what it is and where it is. The private sector needs to account for the assets they can use to assist the public sector in recovery."
Alex Kennett, President of Solutions Inc.

Click here to read our proposal, in draft form, to locate a state-of-the-art Disaster Resiliency Center at Moffet Field.