In the latest Around Town column, earthquake preparedness tips ahead of the Great California ShakeOut, an introduction to the Palo Alto Library's latest robot and a former East Palo Alto police chief's new federal job.
DROP, COVER, HOLD ON ... It's been 32 years since the Loma Prieta earthquake violently shook the Bay Area on Oct. 17, 1989. The momentous event is a good reminder to get one's supplies in order and to practice safety drills such as the earthquake mantra "drop, cover and hold on," said Annette Glanckopf, co-chair of Palo Alto's Emergency Services Volunteers program.
The Great California ShakeOut is on Oct. 21 as part of International ShakeOut Day, which occurs on the third Thursday of October. It's a chance to review and update emergency preparedness plans and supplies, and to secure one's home, school and business to prevent damage and injuries.
This year's event in Palo Alto includes a Get Ready to Shake Out photo and video contest sponsored by the city's Office of Emergency Services and Emergency Services Volunteers. Residents can win prizes for categories such as the best expression during an earthquake drill; the most creative, safe thing to do during an earthquake; best hazard hunt video or securing your devices; and best earthquake story (for adults only). Visit paneighborhoods.orgashakeout-contest/ for more information. ShakeOut videos from city Emergency Services Director Ken Dueker and Police Chief Bob Jonsen can be found on the Palo Alto Neighborhoods organization's website, paneighborhoods.org.
FARM MEETS TECH ... The Palo Alto Library 's two-member robot family of Dewey and Elsie now have a third member in their clan: FarmBot. Unlike its elders, the agricultural robot was "built from scratch" with help from a local girls robotics team, according to a Sept. 22 blog post from the library.
The Space Cookies FIRST Robotics Competition Team 1868 utilized their experience with robotics and engineering to create the project, which is part of the library's robotics program and was supported through an innovation grant from the Pacific Libraries Partnership. "The girls were thrilled to work on the project, and they gained new knowledge from it, through much trial and error," according to the blog. From wires to sensors to chips, the team worked with numerous pieces to bring FarmBot to life, so to speak.
Housed at the Mitchell Park Community Center, FarmBot has received warm welcomes from city staff who have made sure the robot feels right at home. The Fire Department has done fire inspections, the Information Technology Department has set up a new network for FarmBot and the Public Works Department provided access to water and electricity.
While Dewey and Elsie have the ability to roam around, converse with library visitors and teach coding to children, FarmBot mostly stays at its planter. With FarmBot now assembled, the library is taking the next step of tuning the software to the hardware. Eventually the agricultural robot is expected to sow seeds, water plants and remove weeds — all on its own.
NEW GIG ... Former East Palo Alto police Chief Ron Davis has taken a new role on the federal level. The veteran law enforcement leader is now head of the U.S. Marshals Service, becoming the 12th person to serve in the job. He was sworn in Sept. 27 by U.S. Attorney Merrick Garland after a unanimous vote by the Senate.
"It is my great honor to lead the dedicated men and women of the U.S. Marshals Service who work tirelessly and selflessly every day protecting America's system of justice, our communities and the American people," he said in a statement.
Davis supervises more than 5,000 employees in the country and foreign field offices. As the saying goes, with great power comes great responsibility, and Davis' new job is no exception. He's in charge of federal judicial security, fugitive apprehension, witness security, asset forfeiture and prisoner operations, according to the release. Davis brings an impressive resume to the role.
In former President Barack Obama's administration, he was the director of the Office of Community Oriented Policing Services at the Department of Justice from 2013 to 2017. During that time, he was appointed executive director of the President's Task Force on 21st Century Policing in December 2014.
His time as a California law enforcement member spans over 28 years, including at the Oakland Police Department, which he joined in 1985, and East Palo Alto police, where he was chief from 2005 to 2013.