PANDA - Palo Alto Neighborhood Disaster Activities - is a City of Palo Alto program that trains residents in a range of disaster response activities.
In reports on the City's preparedness, the staff grossly overstates the capabilities of the PANDAs, producing a dangerously over-optimistic picture. First, the City counts everyone who has ever been trained as a PANDA. Patrick Muffler, BPA E-Prep Chair and a leader in PANDA, pegs the active PANDAs at fewer than 15% of those trained. Second, many of the active PANDAs are expected to be unavailable to perform the key duties of the PANDAs.
The PANDA program is also being used inadvertently as a barrier to participation. Many of the useful activities during an emergency are a very poor fit to the current PANDA program, and people interested in these are not willing to expend the time on the largely irrelevant PANDA classes (24 hours plus monthly refreshers).
PANDA leaders, such as Patrick Muffler, are well-aware of these problem and are agitating for the City to adopt a realistic mission and expectations for the PANDAs.
However, until this gets resolved, City officials will likely continue to deflect questions and suggestion about citizen involvement in e-prep with "The PANDAs will do it." This tendency is reinforced by rank-and-file PANDAs whose enthusiasm trumps their understanding of effective organizations.