Posts Tagged ‘neighborhood’

Planning for Emergencies – “Survey Says . . .”

Tuesday, December 30th, 2014

Two weeks ago I sent out a survey to my various Emergency Plan Guide subscribers.

Only two questions resulted in any real intelligence.

Emergency Plan Guide Surv eyThe first interesting question made me really pleased. The image shows the question and the result: 100% of the respondents trusted the information on the site “a great deal” or “a lot.”

The second interesting question was the very last one, where we asked people to let us know what they want more of in upcoming Advisories. Here the answers were totally diverse.

Some people wanted pure survival information.

Others were looking for ideas to help them organize CERT groups. (One CERT group was in a medical facility!)

So we fall back on our original assumptions regarding our audience, assumptions that have been upheld via comments we’ve received. And to continue with the questions . . .

Do you fit into one of these categories?

  1. Preppers – Make preparations to get through an emergency or a disaster (caused by weather, societal turmoil, etc.) by relying on their own stockpiled supplies and skills.
  2. Survivalists – Prepare to survive a long-term, total breakdown of society, probably as a result of anarchy. Survivalists endorse and practice traditional wilderness survival skills including use of weapons, traps, emergency shelter, etc.
  3. Homesteaders – Look to the land to be self-sufficient as a regular lifestyle. Homesteaders grow crops and preserve them; they may also craft their own materials and tools.
  4. Professional Emergency Responders and Planners – Formally trained to respond to and manage emergencies of different types and intensities. These include First Responders (firefighters, police, emergency personnel), leaders within city or government agencies, and staff of the Big Daddy of them all, the Federal Emergency Management Association (since 2003, part of Homeland Security).

Where do we fit?

Over the years Joe and I have absorbed good info from all these groups!  (Actually, our interest in preparedness started when we were children. My parents were pioneers in Alaska in the 30s and I inherited their attitudes along with their stories. And Joe survived on urban streets by himself as a child – yet another skill set.)

At Emergency Plan Guide, we have ended up finding a niche that doesn’t seem to get a lot of sustained attention.

We are Team Builders.

We tend to like – and want to trust — people. We enjoy being part of a bigger team. And nearly every news story we hear makes it clear that in the case of a widespread emergency, it’s the people physically closest to you who will make the difference to your survival!

Yes, your “immediate survival team” will be made up of your neighbors or your co-workers.

We can’t count on strangers to have any particular skills or understanding. But we can and should count on neighbors and co-workers to have (1) basic knowledge, (2) some practiced responses and (3) a readiness to pitch in.

So let me ask you for a bit more follow-up.  Can you reply to this Advisory and let us know which group from those described above fits you the best? Or do you fit into another category altogether?

We look forward to hearing from you!

Joe Krueger and Virginia Nicols
Your Emergency Plan Guide Team

If you get this in an email, you can contact us here to let us know more about who you are and what you want.





The Secret to Surviving a Neighborhood Disaster

Sunday, September 21st, 2014

. . . Goes Against Current Fashion

Every week survivalists and preppers spend millions of dollars on “survival gear” — including tents, flashlights, generators, radios, firearms and more. Do you ever think you should be doing this, too?

Survival Mentality

Your survival mentality?

But take a moment to consider this. If your efforts are all to prepare your family to “pull up the drawbridge” and “defend the castle,” you will be ignoring, if not actively alienating, the very group that will be in the best position to save you!

Who is that? It’s your immediate neighbors!

Remember Katrina, Superstorm Sandy, the earthquake and tsunami in Japan? It was hours or even days before official help got to many neighborhoods!

Lives were saved by neighbors helping neighbors.

Most lives are lost in the first 15-30 minutes.

Regardless of how prepared you are with emergency supplies, the first 15 to 30 minutes following a disaster are the most critical if you are trapped in a burning house, under fallen debris or in a mud flow.

And the only people on the scene capable of helping will be your immediate neighbors.

The Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) trainings that are available in many communities around the Country teach citizens how to best protect themselves and help their neighbors.

But in most cases – especially in more highly populated areas – the CERT training falls short of organizing trained members into functioning neighborhood units.

It’s up to you to organize your own neighborhood groups!

What about the aftermath?

Yes, you can store water, food and medicine to tide you over for the days or weeks it takes for the government and support organizations to recover.

But what good is it if your neighbors don’t do the same?

Are you prepared to fend off neighbors at gun point to protect your own supplies? Or are you going to stand by and watch them starve or die?

This is a terrible situation that you need to think long and hard about, because it could easily happen.

Once again, it’s up to you to remind your neighbors to build emergency supplies.

How to get your neighbors involved?  You can start by asking yourself, and then sharing with them, these important survival questions.

In an emergency, wouldn’t it be better if you knew . . .

  • The neighbors on either side of you, across the hall or across the street?
  • Are they families or individuals?
  • How many children do they have?
  • Where are family members normally during the day?
  • Are there any disabled members of the family?
  • What part of the house do people sleep in?
  • If people are missing at night, where would you look for them?
  • Do your neighbors know what part of your house you sleep in?
  • Would they know where to look for you in the middle of the night following an earthquake or tornado?
  • How long would it take them to find you?
  • Would you still be alive when they do find you?

In an emergency, you are your neighbors’ keeper – and they are yours.

Our current American emphasis on rugged individualism, our concerns for privacy, our worries about interfering – these views must be re-examined in the face of preparing for a neighborhood disaster.


Joseph Krueger
Your Emergency Plan Guide Team

P.S. Share this post with your Neighborhood Emergency Response Team, to get their reaction.  And let us know how it is received!

Community Cache of Emergency Supplies

Sunday, March 9th, 2014

At a recent CERT update meeting here in our town, a police officer was asking questions about our neighborhood preparedness. Not our individual preparedness, but what we have done for the neighborhood.

The question about supplies from the police.

Emergency supplies

Enough for the whole neighborhood?

“I assume you guys have pulled together supplies, like food, for everyone?”

As it turns out, we’ve been working hard to get our neighborhood aware and organized, so we were proud to be able to describe what we’ve accomplished.

The answer about supplies from our group.

“We have NOT taken on gathering and storing supplies for the whole neighborhood!”

Our motto is “Shelter in Place with your OWN supplies.”

Here’s why.

1. Human nature. If people think someone else is doing the work for them, they stop doing it themselves.

2. Incentive. If not everyone participates, then the “good citizens” who store food and water will be penalized when their unprepared neighbors start knocking on their door for help. We remind people that if they are unprepared, they are not likely to be welcomed when the disaster actually hits.

3. Money. Buying and storing food supplies for hundreds of people takes a big financial investment, not to mention specialized knowledge.

4. Space. Storing food supplies for hundreds of people also takes a big and ongoing investment in storage space, maintenance, security, etc.

We are a volunteer organization. Our membership waxes and wanes as people move away or move in. Fortunately our members can get good local CERT training, but some of the best neighbors don’t have it yet.

Now, we’re also fortunate to have a small monthly budget thanks to our Homeowners’ Association – and that allows us to purchase carefully-selected pieces of equipment that we will have ready for an emergency. (You can read more about our equipment purchases here.) But our budget doesn’t extend to the thousands of dollars that would be necessary for purchasing and storing food.

So we’ve decided to continue to stress “Make sure you have your own supplies of food you like and the medicines you need. And don’t expect your neighbor to welcome you with open arms when you run out.”

What decisions are you making in your neighborhood?

Your Emergency Plan Guide Team

I’d really like to hear! Please send comments!



Financing Neighborhood Emergency Equipment Purchases

Thursday, November 7th, 2013

Emergency equipment can be expensive!

If you’ve been reading our recent posts or visited our “serious survival equipment” store, then you know that you could easily spend hundreds or even thousands of dollars to be more prepared.


Who does this ladder belong to?

It’s easy to make financial decisions for yourself or for your own family. You know how much you value each member! Certainly, committed “preppers” are known to spend thousands to build up supplies of food, weapons, etc.; they even build secure and secret places to store them in.

When it comes to items to share with others, though, the thought process is a little different. Here’s what we’ve experienced.

First, you have to truly value the lives and security of your neighbors.

Being pressured into being a part of the group may cause you to show up to meetings, but it isn’t enough to make you want to spend money for their welfare.

Honestly, there’s nothing we know of that will change a “me” focus to an “us” focus. It’s either there, or it isn’t. So, if some of your group members seem loath to participate in group purchases, after appealing a couple of times to the concepts of cooperation and mutual support, you’ll have to let them go their own way.

People who do support the group can coordinate individual purchases to good effect.

In our local neighborhood group, it just so happens that we’re already “sharing” a number of items. For example, Joe and I have a tall extension ladder that was left behind (too tough to pack) when a neighbor moved. The ladder ended up behind our house (see the photo!), and now it’s used by any of a handful of people on the street; they just come and get it.

Other neighborhood items, stored at various people’s houses, include a heavy-duty dolly, a lawn-mower, and an electric chain saw.

It’s the same with survival equipment. One neighbor has a heavy duty pry bar (six feet long); another has a pair of giant shears (for breaking padlocks!), and we have a number of solar battery chargers (described in our recent Advisory on communications). Some of our neighbors have golf carts that they have promised to make available in an emergency.

We all know about these items, and where they are located, and in an emergency we plan to share for the benefit of the group.

What about “really big” purchases?

Our larger group has made a number of more expensive purchases. You’ve read about our walkie-talkies and their batteries, the generators, and our pop-up tents. (Actually, I don’t think I’ve written about the tents yet. Watch for that one soon!)

Thanks to a committed and enlightened homeowners’ association board, our emergency team gets money every month via association dues. Even a dollar from every home in a community (and we have 300+) — whether once a month or once a quarter — can be enough to create a useful budget.

In the workplace, the same concept applies. An enlightened business owner will recognize the value of having appropriate emergency equipment and supplies on site, not to mention training. In fact, larger businesses probably already have a line item either in Human Resources or Insurance that would expand to include emergency preparedness purchases. You could head up the group to make recommendations!

Naturally, it takes a real campaign to get a financial commitment of this sort. We applied professional pressure (our background is in direct marketing!) and were able to make it happen, both in our neighborhood and in small businesses we’ve consulted to.

Is your group eligible for a grant?

We continue to search for grant money to support our neighborhood emergency response efforts. Our research includes individual insurance companies, our local branch of The Home Depot, and a couple of online groups that cater to First Responders. What we’ve discovered so far:

  • You need to be an established group, with an official non-profit status, ID number, etc.
  • It helps to have some particular or outstanding need – handicapped members, unusually dangerous location, etc.
  • Many grants are announced on a specific date. The organizations involved have a strict application procedure that may take months, so you need to start your investigation now.

One of our newest group members has experience with getting grants for cities. We’re working with her to see what we can come up with – and I’ll report on our progress!

In the meanwhile, put together your “wish list” of equipment your group could use effectively. Your list will be different from other groups’ lists. Just the action of making the list will involve more people and likely uncover creative ways to turn it into reality.

What’s on your list?

Virginia Nicols
Your Emergency Plan Guide Team



Neighborhood Planning for Emergencies

Tuesday, October 29th, 2013

Do you have plans for your neighborhood?

Rescue workers in earthquake

Who will get there first? Neighbors!

Certainly, preparing yourself and your household for emergencies is important. But, as we’ve said many times, your single most important link to survival is your immediate neighbors.

Their proximity to you (and yours to them) means that they will be the first people on the scene in a real emergency. The more you and they know about surviving a disaster, the better the chances for everyone.

So, do you have plans underway to form a neighborhood Community Emergency Response Team (CERT)?  And making sure its members are trained, and ready? Encouraging you to do so – and providing help in this regard – is the real purpose of this website.

Organize the neighborhood team.

Here’s what our neighborhood Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) looks like. How does this description compare to yours? We have close to a hundred team members in various stages of training. About a third of our members have received city-sponsored CERT training. There are over 350 homes in our group, divided into six divisions, with six Block Captains under each Division Leader. We have six special teams: First Aid, Communications, Search and Rescue, Operations, Logistics, and Training.

Increasing the Effectiveness of the Team.

We are currently evaluating a number of options to provide our Team Members with advanced training and equipment that increases our capabilities. Among the areas we are focusing on . . .

  • Communications – probably the most critical component in our emergency planning
  • Standby/Emergency Power – High on all of our members’ lists
  • Transportation – Related to communications; different communities have unique needs
  • First Aid/Triage – Helping injured people has a protocol
  • Temporary Shelter – Caring for neighbors who’ve lost their home in an emergency
  • Search and Rescue – Here again, there is a protocol and Pets complicate matters
  • Emergency Equipment – Water, food and medicines are individual responsibilities; the neighborhood can invest in more substantial items
  • Security — Tricky, but necessary. Training is essential!

The series of posts that accompany this one will discuss each of these eight categories. We will cover the usefulness and the drawbacks of several pieces of equipment as well as the servicing requirements of each. And we’ll discuss ways to finance these purchases.

Our hope is that this information will give you a head start on your team planning.   We’ve chosen to start with the emergency power since that seems to be what most people think is their first consideration.

But first, consider the following Action item:  What constitutes YOUR neighborhood?  If you haven’t really begun neighborhood planning for emergencies, and need to decide on the boundaries for your neighborhood, check out this article:  Who Will Be There To Help?


Don’t miss a single Advisory.  Sign up below.

Neighborhood Preparedness Faire — Lessons Learned

Thursday, September 19th, 2013

As part of National Preparedness Month, Joe and I staffed a booth at a local neighborhood Emergency Preparedness Faire on Sunday. It was held in a street that ends in a cul de sac, and we were one of about 20 different organizations trying to raise awareness among folks in this neighborhood.

How effective was it?

How effective was it?

Generous Support from Local Agencies

The police department was there with two cars and a child fingerprinting set-up; the fire department brought one of its engines and let kids crawl into the cab. The gas company was demonstrating utility shut-offs, and the electric company had a truly terrifying display (aimed at children!) that zapped when its puppet people approached a live overhead wire.

Other booths sold emergency supplies, first aid supplies, and ice cream. There was even a display of how to splint a broken arm using newspapers.

Reactions from Neighborhood Residents

We were there helping sign people up for the next Community Emergency Response Training class, and to talk with passers-by about emergency supplies. Here’s what we discovered:

  • The word “emergency” evoked no response other than glazing of the eyes – even though these people had come knowing this event was supposed to be about emergency preparedness.
  • The word “survival” worked much better. Particularly when we asked, “Do you have a survival kit? In the car?” (This is southern California, where everybody commutes.)
  • The best response came from the children. When we asked, “What do you do in an earthquake?” the kids all responded automatically, “Drop, cover and hold on.” Their parents looked on in wonder.

Some percentage of the people absolutely would not approach our tent; they just smiled and kept walking. (You gotta ask yourself, why did they even show up? Well, it was a beautiful day, and there was music and balloons . . .)

Recommendations from the Field

1. Children —  Many of the families had children, and those booths that had something for children fared the best.

2. Mystery — In our booth, where we talked about the need for a survival kit, I pulled items one by one out of a backpack to show them. Again, children were eager to see what would come out next.  They were most interested in the space blanket, the solar-powered/crank radio, the whistles and the LifeStraw. They actually asked questions while the parent/s looked on.

3. Give-aways — A number of people didn’t seem to have time to actually talk about their preparedness, or our display, but they happily took one of our postcards that listed our website for more info.

At the end of the day, we had accomplished a number of things, including making an excellent connection with the local newspaper reporter and his photographer. We were again reminded about how difficult the “preparedness message” is to deliver.

But if we got just a half-dozen families to take action, that’s more people who will stay alive and survive when the big one hits. So, was it worth it? You bet.

Virginia Nicols
Your Emergency Plan Guide Team

Could you use a friendly reminder once in a while to assure your family’s safety?  Sign up below to get an Advisory every week.

CERT in Action!

Monday, June 24th, 2013

CERT activates for a Missing Child

CERT volunteers

CERT Volunteers get their assignment. Photo thanks to OC Register and Lt. Bill Whalen of Irvine PD

Two weeks ago, at 9:30 at night, our phone began to ring. At the same time, my cell phone buzzed and a message came up on my computer screen: “This is not a test.”

Irvine police were calling on their volunteer support teams, including CERT, to respond to an emergency – a missing child. He had left home around 7 p.m., and disappeared into the night. The police department had already been searching on foot, with dogs and a helicopter, to no avail.

The police decided to activate their volunteers. According to the newspaper account, the Lieutenant in charge expected about 10 people to show up. They did, within 10 minutes. Within the next two hours, 130 people showed up!

The volunteers included members of both CERT, which is over 600 strong in Irvine, and IDEC, the Irvine Disaster Emergency Communications (amateur radio volunteers). Groups combed the area until 2:15 a.m. Police also used footage from local buses to try to capture information about the boy.

Ultimately, he emerged from a movie theatre in an adjoining town, and prevailed on a helpful citizen to take him home.

Take-aways from the event, according to the police:

  • The iAlert system for this community works. (I can attest to that! Read more about the iAlert program here: Severe Weather Alerts)
  • Regular trainings for CERT volunteers have kept the group engaged and willing to participate. (Irvine CERT holds regular, nearly monthly, trainings and community service activities.)
  • Organizers were hard-pressed to manage the number of volunteers that showed up. It was unprecedented.

A CERT simulation for this exact scenario had been scheduled for later this month, but it was cancelled. The real thing was better than any simulation would have been.

As an aside, here in our local neighborhood, another six people have signed up to take the no-cost city-sponsored CERT training that starts in July. It consists of 8 evening sessions, in which people review basic first aid, search and rescue and disaster psychology. Graduates get the chance to handle tools, practice with a fire extinguisher, and come out with a kit bag full of emergency equipment including flashlight, hard hat, dust mask and gloves.

Action item: Interested in CERT training in YOUR community? Head to the FEMA website’s State Directory at: .




CERT Challenge: Overcoming Apathy and Procrastination

Sunday, June 16th, 2013
Couple will depend on others for help in emergency.

“No emergency supplies.” Who will take care of them?

We sat at the 2nd Wednesday monthly meeting of our CERT Division Leaders and Special Team Leaders and stared gloomily as one of our members gave yet another status report about some of “her” residents in the community. “Not one extra can of food. Not one extra bottle of water.”

In some cases, elderly residents were handicapped by lack of funds. In others, the reason is plain apathy, procrastination or worse: “It’s the government’s job to provide for us in an emergency.”

Are “governments” responsible to care for us in a disaster? How capable are they?

We saw an answer to the second question in interviews by the media following Hurricane Sandy’s damage in New Jersey. Local and state governments were overwhelmed and unable to respond. Likewise, relief agencies like the Red Cross and Salvation Army were also overtaxed by the enormity of the event. Some people went weeks without services.

Here in California, following a major earthquake along the San Andreas Fault, all local government and disaster relief agencies are also likely to be overwhelmed. Further, they will be drawn to critically damaged areas to the north and east of us, leaving communities in our area to fend for themselves for up to a week or more.

Are you prepared to share with people who ignored warnings?

The question then becomes one of caring for irresponsible neighbors as well as ourselves in a disaster scenario. And that presents our responsible residents with untenable choices. We are admittedly better prepared than most. By all indications, over 50% of our residents indicate that they have some food and water set aside for just such an emergency, largely as a result of ongoing education programs that span a decade.

But 50% isn’t 100%. More needs to be done.

Maybe if we make a party out of preparing for emergencies . . .

One thing we might do is hold neighborhood survival kit stocking events. First, make a list of critical items (reliable flashlights, radios, can openers, etc.), together with optional food items and their recommended quantity. Research the best sources and prices. Come up with three or four versions of a survival kit.

Get as many neighbors as possible to pick a kit, and pay their money. Buy items in bulk for discounts or discounted shipping.

Then, when the supplies arrive, hold a party to “pick and pack your survival kit.” It’s at least worth a try. We’ll report on our results here.


Apartment Survival

Thursday, April 11th, 2013

Home ownership, the standard

Most descriptions of preparing for disaster seem to focus on a single family home and how its residents should prepare. These descriptions include making changes to the building itself, like installing braces or safety glass or reinforcing the chimney or roof. Some families go so far as to fortify their homes or to build totally separate disaster shelters.

Naturally, the family stores large quantities of water and food and perhaps invests in emergency equipment like solar panels or generators. The family also is reminded to include emergency preparations for pets.

Highrise apartment buildingBut what about renters?

But if you are one of the 35% of all households that live in rented homes and particularly in apartments, options may be different – and limited. You probably have far less square footage to start with. You are not likely to have outside area where emergency items could be securely stored or easily accessed. And you certainly would not be allowed to make any structural changes to make the building any sturdier or safer.

What can apartment dwellers do differently?

1. Be efficient!

Your requirements are every bit as important as those of a family living in a single family home, but you will definitely have to be cleverer in order to store even the basics. The smart apartment dweller will become an expert in high-nutritional-value, low-bulk food and in multi-purpose tools and equipment. Instead of investing in a generator, the apartment dweller may need to invest in storage containers that can be hidden under the bed, stacked 8 feet high in a closet, or converted to use as an end-table.

2. Be creative!

Whereas someone with plenty of space outside can store emergency water in a 55 gallon barrel, you may have to make do with a variety of individual bottles, supplemented with a supply of expandable bottles, to be filled at the last minute. Given your limited ability to store water, you may be putting your filtration equipment to use immediately as you are forced to supplement your original water supply.

3. Make friends!

In an apartment setting, neighbors can make all the difference. A group of people can cooperate in assembling and storing food, tools, and other essentials. (For example, two families could share one stove.) One neighbor may have handyman skills and tools; another might have medical training; a third might be a competent cook. Sharing the burdens and responsibilities may serve the entire community better than each person trying to fend for him or herself.

For a more comprehensive list of emergency planning actions for apartment dwellers, check out our two-part  Apartment Survival Guide.


Neighborhood CERT – How to Recruit

Friday, March 8th, 2013

It ain’t easy!

Our local CERT group is having another recruiting drive. It’s an ongoing effort, of course, since people come and go in the neighborhood.

This month we are having a real “recruiting meeting.” Here are some ideas that seem to work to get people there and give them a valuable experience.

Timing – Plan around a disaster.

Frankly, a newsworthy disaster can improve attendance at your meeting. Here in California we say, “Just give me a 3.7 earthquake and we’ll find some more CERT members.”

Even when you have to plan in advance, you will be able to find some recent disasters to feature as part of your recruiting material. (The United States Geological Survey maintains As I write this, it lists 198 earthquakes as having happened over the past seven days!)

Invite an “expert” speaker.

Yes, having trained and knowledgeable neighbors is appealing. But sometimes a recognized “expert” can be a better draw. We have had good success inviting the local Police Chief, Fire Chief, and particularly people who have actually participated in disaster recovery (in New Orleans, Fukushima, Christchurch) to be the featured speaker for the evening.

Give attendees materials to interact with: maps, photos, radios.

Maps, photos, radios — all good recruiting tools.

Give attendees something to do.

Emergency response is all about – response! It’s about being ready to take action, and not hesitating. We find that our meetings are more interesting and more successful if we have an activity that all people in the room can take part in, whether or not they are familiar with CERT. For example:

  • Survey the crowd for their ideas of the threats the neighborhood is facing. Record those threats on an easel in the front of the room.
  • Pass out maps of the neighborhood (or use an overhead projection). Have people identify where they live and work in relation to high-threat areas like a chemical plant, a railroad track, flood zone, or a high-pressure gas line.
  • Have extra emergency radios available for people to hold and try out. Your team members can share with visitors. Go through a drill to replace the batteries, change channels, etc. It will result in pandemonium if not well managed, but people always enjoy it!
  • Provide people with resources to take home: a sticker with emergency numbers, an abbreviated emergency supplies list, notice of an upcoming training.
  • A raffle is fun if you can organize it.
  • And, of course, refreshments are always appreciated. Set them up on a side table and give people a chance to mingle.

Invite people at least twice.

People need to be exposed to your marketing message more than once. (You’ve heard the classic “seven times before people buy” story.) We find that an invitation flyer (sent via email or actually printed and delivered to the doorstep) followed by a shorter reminder just the day before works pretty well. Best is if a neighbor actually says, “Let’s go together. I’ll pick you up.”

What’s the Call to Action?

At the end of the meeting, attendees need to be directed to “take the next step.” There is no fixed rule about what that next step should be; that will depend on your individual group. But a call to action is essential. Without it, you have just wasted your recruiting opportunity!

Joe and I have developed, and continue to develop, tools to make all these recruiting tasks easier and more efficient.  Best way to get them is to subscribe to our Advisories.

Virginia Nicols

Emergency Plan Guide





Gas Line Leak!

Sunday, January 20th, 2013

High pressure lines are closely monitored by a number of agencies.  Your local utility or city will be the most familiar with the state of high pressure lines in your area, and with the monitoring guidelines and records.

Gas fire in street.

Gas fire erupting through LA street after Northridge earthquake. (photo by M. Rymer)

No matter how carefully lines are monitored, however, leaks and breaks can happen.  Most often, they happen when construction equipment accidentally punctures a line.  They can result from a natural event like a storm, earthquake, tornado, or ice storm.  Sometimes an over-loaded, aged infrastructure is to blame.

Leaks could happen at any time.

How do your local gas lines stack up?

An online search using the National Pipeline Mapping system is a good place to start. Dig deep on that site to find the names of the various operators of the different lines in your area. Contact them to get more details about the age and condition of their lines, their monitoring and safety policies and plans, etc.

If you think you have an emergency…

If you see or hear any of these near a pipeline right-of-way, it could signal a leak:

  • A hissing, roaring sound
  • Dirt or dust blowing
  • Water bubbling or spraying
  • Dead or brown vegetation
  • Flames coming from the ground
  • “Rotten egg” smell

(Typically the “rotten egg” smell is added only to smaller distribution lines. It won’t appear in major transmission lines.)

What’s the right response to a potential gas leak?

Get out! But do it intelligently.

  • Turn off any machinery or motors.
  • Don’t turn on or use any electrical equipment that could create a spark. This includes turning lights on or off, making a cell phone call, closing a garage door, or using a battery-operated radio!
  • Do not allow any open flames, including matches, cigarette lighters, welding equipment, etc.
  • Evacuate the immediate area. If exiting a building, leave the doors open.
  • Keep bystanders away.
  • Do not try to find the source of the leak.
  • Do not operate any valves or other shut-offs.
  • Do not attempt any repairs.
  • Do not attempt to put out any fires.
  • From a safe distance, call 911.

Emergency Preparedness Training

Action Item: Train your Emergency Response Team to recognize this hazard and to respond accordingly. Our “Neighborhood Plan” provides more detailed suggestions for effective training, including experts to invite to an organizational meeting.



CERT Doorhanger

Friday, November 23rd, 2012
Bright yellow doorhanger captures attention

Doorhanger breaks preparation into four stages.

When it comes to being prepared, storing water and food are just the beginning. Unfortunately, many people stop there.

Our neighborhood CERT team wanted to get a better result. We researched and then broke preparation down into four stages to make it easier for people to get started building their emergency survival kit.

Our Doorhanger

Detailed instructions were published on a bright yellow doorhanger, distributed by the local block captain. Each hanger had the name and contact information of the  block captain, along with other emergency phone numbers.

The Process

Completing the four stages will take people several weeks. But they will be well prepared when they have accomplished it. Here’s how the doorhanger was laid out.

Stage One: Stay-at-Home Stash. Eleven things you and your family (including pets) need to Shelter in Place for at least a week. Superstorm Sandy showed just how important the Stay-at-Home Stash is.

Stage Two: Medical and Personal Care. These items – seven categories of them — will keep you alive and functioning. For senior citizens, this list includes spare glasses and hearing aid batteries.

Stage Three: Important Papers. Collecting papers and having them in one location, preferably protected from fire AND available to be moved, is the biggest challenge for everyone. Certainly, you can’t pull them together in just a few moments, and that may be all the time you have.  (We are working on getting electronic copies of important papers onto flash drives that would be easy to carry.)

Stage Four: Evacuation Kit. A bag or backpack contains items from the earlier stages, plus extra car keys, computers, etc.

Action Step for YOUR neighborhood

What would it take for YOUR neighbors to get prepared? You can download and duplicate excellent “Be Prepared” lists from the Red Cross, from CERT, and probably from your city.

We believe that customizing the message to our neighbors will make it more likely that they will follow through. Printing the list on a brightly colored door-hanger, instead of on a sheet of paper, makes it memorable. And delivering the message door to door is an important way to introduce and involve our CERT team.

P.S.  We’ll keep you updated on our progress!

UPDATE: It has been two years since the first Doorhanger was distributed. This year we updated, reprinted and distributed it again. So many people remembered it and still had the original in a drawer or on the refrigerator!




“Just too busy right now…but of course I’ll help in an emergency.”

Tuesday, October 30th, 2012

Why don’t people want to be part of an emergency response team?

In our years of dealing with emergency planning, at the local or regional level, people tell us — or don’t tell, but reveal — these reasons for not wanting to participate:

  • For the most part it’s that they are busy . . . too busy they think to find the time to participate in one more activity.
  • Some people are hard wired against joining any group or engaging in any kind of preparation.
  • Some people just have a mental block against thinking about “negative” things. (Insurance agents encounter this type of person on a regular basis.)
  • Another less lethal version of this attitude is the person who lives in denial.
  • Then there is the hard-core procrastinator (this type is our absolute favorite).

How to overcome these obstacles?  The question technique…

While there is no magic bullet for any of these folks, we’ve found that – rather than trying to “sell them” on participating – giving them a list of questions like the following can have a sobering effect on most people with an IQ over 75.

Collapsed building

When is a convenient time?

Question #1:  What day and time would be best for you and the safety of your family to schedule a major earthquake? What time would be the least inconvenient?

Question #2:  If you are away from home when an earthquake or other major disaster hits and your house is damaged, who do you expect will check to see if anyone needs rescuing and/or who will turn off the natural gas to prevent fire?

Question #3: If you are trapped underneath a bookcase or under the rubble of your (now former) house and impassable roads are preventing any official help, would you like to have trained CERT neighbors try to rescue you?

(If not, what color body bag would you prefer? They come in white, blue or black and heavy duty models are available for people over 240 lbs.)

Question #4: In the event of a real catastrophic event that lays waste to much of your community, which would you prefer:

a. A bunch of well-meaning neighbors running around in panic mode trying to figure out what to do,       or

b. Trained and organized Community Emergency Response Team Members springing into action according to well-rehearsed tasks for which they have volunteered?

Question #5: Following a widespread disaster, you’re busy at work, trying to save the business that provides you and your family with a livelihood, but you have children at school and an aging parent, one cat, a dog and one Gerbil at home. Can you save the business without knowing your neighbors are looking after the home front until you get there?

Obviously, we could come up with more questions. But the best questions will come from you and the people in your neighborhood who know the actual circumstances.

The point is simply to get people thinking about the consequences of not taking action.

Next, we’ll discuss the first steps in building a neighborhood or workplace CERT group.

Joe Krueger
Your Emergency Plan Guide Team

P.S.  Action Item:  If you liked the questions, use them!  Pass them out at work, or share one-by-one via email.  Use them however you want to get the conversation started!