Category Archives: Uncategorized


Working on CoexistSTANCE

Tonight, Paris is Beirut. Paris is Aleppo. It is also Kano, Nigeria, too.

Yesterday I was Tweeting with the Syrian Civil Defense — the “White Helmets” — the people who pull bodies out of buildings. I was favoriting messages they posted. They were favoriting mine.

The new Twitter “hearts” were gruesomely out-of-place. I was not “liking” or “loving” these images. I was marking these tweets as important. The hearts were ghoulishly surreal.

I was watching video of the Russians who had dropped white phosphorus (WP) as an anti-personnel munition. A violation of the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC). The U.S. did the same thing in Fallujah in 2004. The tactic then was called “shake-and-bake” — burning out positions with a chemical that burns its way through clothes, flesh, all the way down into the bone — that bombs didn’t work against. I was pointing out to the Russian government how the OPWC had condemned the use of WP as an anti-personnel munition by the Americans in 2004. It is still illegal today. Yet hardly any media outside of those of us closely watching the Syrian crisis said a word.

Also yesterday, in Beirut, ISIS had twin suicide attacks. 43 died. Over 200 wounded. People sneered, and even cheered, that the bombs went off in a Hezbollah stronghold. To them, the Lebanese were getting what they deserved for supporting Assad.

Day-in-and-day-out I’ve been monitoring these conflicts, from Boko Haram to Al-Shabaab to ISIS, al-Qaeda, the Taliban.

Yet elsewhere the web was filled with fashion shows inspired by the Kardashians, or the typical Silicon Valley marketing spiels: “Is your cloud data secure?” I was attending a conference up in San Francisco. The talk about creating business community sites to debate benefits packages or to support brand loyalty sort of paled in comparison to what I was seeing on my laptop and cell phone.

And then, tonight, there was Paris.

This terror goes on every day. Just in places around the world not quite as familiar to us as Paris. Tonight, Paris is Beirut. Paris is Aleppo. It is also Kano, Nigeria, too.

For all that I am aware of intellectually and whatever I feel emotionally, my understanding is not experiential. It cannot compare to the day-to-day existence of a young girl living in rural Nigeria under threat of rape by Boko Haram, nor can I say I have walked the steps of a moderate Sufi cleric towing a very fine line in Yemen with Shiite Houthi rebels to one side, and Sunni Al-Qaeda affiliates on the other. Nor can I speak of how a mother must feel harboring her family in an Iraqi village under the control of ISIS. Nor can I truly comprehend what it is like to be a father crossing the cold waters of the Mediterranean in a barely-buoyant vessel with only part of my family still alive.

My hope is not just to witness these truths and do nothing. My goal is to connect with communities, with advocates, with organizations, and to offer them aid and to empower them.

If anyone wants to help me monitor and make sense of the ongoing sources of human carnage, and hopefully identify opportunities for changing the narrative and creating an alliance for peace, my project is called ‪#‎CoexistSTANCE‬ ( It is part of my work in

I am open to donations and volunteers for CoexistSTANCE to continue and expand our work. Contact me privately if you would like to help in any way.

Also, if anyone wishes to help with the Syrian refugee crisis, my friend Alison Thompson is bringing solar lanterns to help them have light in their time of darkness.

AL AMAL FOR ALL! One Light Emergency Syrian and Iraqi refugees solar light and supply drive

Twitter: @Peter Corless

Original Post:


It Wasn’t the Day, It Was the Night, and the Morning After

[Reposted from Rockaways – Hurricane Sandy News group on Facebook.]

Today across New York City many people commemorated the landfall of Sandy. Yet it all seemed so ahistorical to me. Because Sandy will ever be irrevocably linked not with the daytime of October 29th, but with the night.

At this time three years ago I was at no personal risk. I was across the nation, in San Jose, California. Yet I was still very much riveted. I was hunched over my laptop in the darkness here, listening to the FDNY Queens fire scanner. I typed out what little tidbits I could put together from squawked and clipped conversations spoken between dispatchers and engines in the midst of the flood waters.

I knew Sandy had been approaching for days. I knew, too, my stubborn Irish-American mother had refused to evacuate. She was determined to stay put in the same house she had lived in since 1970. I also knew that she so-often fell asleep early, and moreover, preferred to sleep in a room in the basement.

So I listened all that night to the FDNY on headphones, praying that there was one block they did not have to go to. Long after everyone else here in California was asleep, I kept listening and typing away here on Facebook, and on Twitter. I heard from the FDNY scanner the fire trucks getting stranded and breaking down in the flood waters. To bypass a fire raging out of control to go to another fire beyond it. Of trucks unable to reach Breezy, and the growing alarms as the blaze raged out of control. I shared what I learned with friends: P.S. 114 and Beach Channel classmates from decades ago. We made a loose confederation of news collection points during the night. There were a few scattered reports from the ground before cell service was cut off. We heard about the fires and the floods. For a moment there we had false alarm St. Francis de Sales was ablaze. By some miracle (and I do not use that word lightly), the flames did not reach that bastion of Rockaway’s faith.

Ruth Domb DeSantis, elsewhere in California, was in tears and begged me to “do something.” I promised her I’d do it.

The next day, October 30th, I started this group. Over the coming days, I soon discovered Katie Honan & team’s indispensable Rockaway Emergency Plan. Rockaway Community News (Rockaway100). And so many other voices! More and more folks started getting plugged in. More and more of a picture of what had occurred began to emerge.

So for me, for all times, I shall ever remember it was the night when Sandy made her fateful landfall. And it was the morning after, in that wan dawn of devastation, when Rockaway began to reunite, recover, and rebuild.

Three years now later, we can celebrate all that has been accomplished for the rebuilding of so many lives, so many homes. It has taken years to put back together what was devastated in just one night. We must also recognize the unevenness of the recovery: for every family that can celebrate, there are still others who have yet to feel that sense of normalcy since the night of the storm. We must commemorate those who survived yet lost so much, and those lives who were lost forever.

Though we can look to the past so vividly, we must also look forward with similarly intense vision. We can look forward to the work that lies ahead. I would like you to use this date of commemoration of loss to find some cause you yourself would like to pledge your efforts towards. It need not be an abstract philosophy or far-flung cause around the world, either.

As those who are so actively working on community gardens, free flea markets, elder care, youth programs, ecological causes, lively arts, holiday efforts for those-in-need, and so much else can attest, there are many ways to do good, and so many unmet needs, right in the 1169x zip codes.

For me, the work on Rockaways – Hurricane Sandy News has now led me to do disaster recovery via social media as a pretty intense personal cause. In the past month alone I have been active on Hurricane Joaquin / SC Flooding, Hurricane Patricia in Mexico, Typhoon Koppu in Philippines Typhoon Aid, Pakistan Earthquake Response, and more.

My hope is to take the lessons learned with Sandy and apply the best practices, tools and methodologies to other communities-in-need. And to expand from disaster response and recovery to deal with other crises and conflicts using social media to help bring communities together in times of dire need.

Such activities also intersect with my work and interests monitoring war and extremist violence around the world. In Afghanistan, for instance, earthquake response is being complicated by the presence of the Taliban. And also just tonight, I am monitoring a cyclone that may hit war-torn Yemen in a few days.

Let me know if anyone would like to be volunteers in such work. I’ll repeat an expression I learned in the relief tent across from St. Francis on a cold day, “There’s plenty of disaster to go around.”

My best prayers and wishes are with you all.

Peter Corless

Advisory 11

[SMEM] Hurricane Joaquin / South Carolina Flood Recovery – Part 1

This diary serves as a day-by-day guide of the establishment of’s Social Media Emergency Management (SMEM) response to the disaster caused by Hurricane Joaquin (#HurricaneJoaquin) as well as the related “1,000-Year” storm system it fed into which produced the disastrous and deadly flooding in South Carolina (#SCFlood). Though the storm only lasted from the end of September to early October 2015, its impacts affected the lives of millions, plus devastated infrastructure and altered the very landscape of the affected communities. The impacts to individuals, businesses and whole communities will take weeks, months and years to repair and rebuild.

This first part discusses the surveillance of a major tropical cyclone that formed off the U.S. east coast, until the point that an SMEM social media community, based on Facebook groups, was created to respond. Major natural phenomena require active monitoring and surveillance long before activation of your SMEM team. Proactive communications with existing communities-of-interest can help seed awareness to make activation rapid and widespread.

Read more:

Also see Facebook:

Open Letter to Sandy Survivors (and Others)

Dear friends, companions, and disaster veterans, I wanted to write to you to reassure you that, no matter where Hurricane Joaquin makes landfall, you have in your souls the strength to face what is to come.

You know all-too-well: it *is* traumatic. It *is* devastating. And it must be faced with immediate and sustainable vigor, resources, and energy. That you can do. That’s what you can offer. I know from direct side-by-side work with so many of you.

I would like to appeal to the Sandy Survivor community to begin to prepare and commit to aid *whichever* community Joaquin makes landfall against.

Maybe, if you have some extra travel miles you can spare, you could plan to help in the Bahamas. Or donate those miles to someone else who can use them. Or, if you want, maybe you and a buddy can pack up a van or a pickup with the sorts of supplies and tools you were short on in the days and weeks after Sandy made landfall.

Maybe get together a canned food drive at your faith community, or through a local politician’s office. Maybe get some gift cards together to take the brunt out of expenses for families in need. Maybe you can establish some sort of directed aid to a specific sponsored family, like Family-to-Family offered during Sandy.

Maybe you might ask your boss for a few days’ time for a humanitarian road trip. Maybe you can pledge to help through Social Media Emergency Management (SMEM) as we have done here for the Rockaways.

However it is you wish to help, please post your plans, personal commitments, ideas, questions and requests to this forum.

We have between now and Sunday, 4 October, to ready ourselves and our families to aid another community, as we ourselves were blessed by the thousands who came to our aid in the aftermath of Sandy.

Time to pay it forward, Rockaway!

Thank you,

Peter Corless
Moderator, Rockaways – Hurricane Sandy News

p.s. For those interested in getting involved with Joaquin response:

“Claiming the Beloved Community”

Peter Corless, founder of, attended a meeting in San Jose entitled “Claiming the Beloved Community: Black and Brown Lives Matter” at the Bible Way Christian Center, Friday, 20 February 2015. His views were published on his personal blog.laurie-smith

The meeting was created by Silicon Valley church leaders and the local San Jose NAACP, and was attended by faith, community and youth leaders, as well as members of law enforcement and elected officials, including San Jose Mayor Sam Licardo, Santa Clara County Supervisor Dave Cortese, and Santa Clara County Sheriff Laurie Smith.