Help Your Neighborhood Prepare for Disaster


The Constant Challenge

I write often about CERT – the Community Emergency Response Team – and the great training that CERT provides.

People who become CERT graduates are almost always up to speed on what’s going on with the weather. CERT grads have basic emergency equipment including radios and walkie-talkies. They are people you can count on when things go wrong.

But CERT grads just aren’t enough to help most neighborhoods prepare or get through a major disaster because there aren’t enough of them!

So when the disaster hits, you’re going to be counting not on First Responders, not on CERT grads, but on your neighbors – trained or untrained!

Here in my neighborhood, we’ve built a neighborhood emergency response  team with the help of CERT grads – but we’re constantly trying to strengthen neighborhood resilience just by getting more neighbors involved in planning for disaster.

Earlier this month I wrote an article on the issue for our neighborhood newsletter. I tried to make the message a friendly one – not just about emergencies and disasters!

I’ve received some positive feedback so I thought I’d share my article here. Maybe you can cut and paste and use some of it for YOUR neighborhood? Can you pull out a couple of the suggestions as the basis for a meeting?

Do with it what you will!

I just hope it will be useful to help your neighborhood prepare for disaster!

Here’s the article.

won't you be my neighborWon’t you be my neighbor?

Over the past year we’ve witnessed so many tragedies and none worse than what’s still happening now in Northern California – thousands of homes destroyed, dozens of people dead, and 3 still missing more than a month after the start of the Camp fire.

We’ve heard great stories of neighbors helping neighbors in disaster situations.

Some of the stories are awe-inspiring.

  • The Cajun Navy towed their private boats from Louisiana to Florida and launched them to help pluck hurricane victims from floodwaters.
  • Neighbors with chain saws worked hour after hour to clear roads after devastation caused by Hurricane Florence.
  • A food truck owner drove 50 miles into a disaster area and fed everyone as long as the food lasted.
  • People spontaneously added clothing to a pile in a Walmart parking lot to create a place where displaced families could collect necessities.

There are many stories just like these – stories of ordinary people finding the will to step up in a disaster.

At the same time right here at home we’re lucky to have stories of neighborhood volunteers who help out all the time!

Here in our neighborhood we see residents who are willing to give time and energy to make a difference for our community throughout the year. We can look back and count dozens of activities, groups meetings, special events – all organized for us by caring volunteers.

But here’s The Constant Challenge. . .

This group of dedicated volunteers is reaching fewer and fewer people – partly because we lose community members, and partly because new residents are not being integrated. And as always, because no disaster has actually hit us, people find it easy to postpone taking any preparedness steps.

For the New Year, our homeowners association has made a commitment to build an even stronger neighborhood.

Building a stronger neighborhood starts with knowing your neighbors.

This means knowing names, having the name and phone number of a neighbor’s emergency contact or family member, maybe exchanging emergency keys. It means keeping a watch out for water leaks, escaped pets, etc.

When you know your neighbors . . .

  • You know who “belongs” in the neighborhood and who might be an intruder – and if you should call the police.
  • You notice when you haven’t seen a neighbor for several days, so you can do a quick check or make a call to a family member.
  • If a neighbor is having a problem getting around, you are ready to add a few items to your shopping list to help them out.
  • You have someone to call if you can’t get home to care for your pet.
  • In a major emergency, you know you won’t be overlooked or forgotten even if you don’t get an official “alert”  – because your neighbors know you are there!

Here’s the first step:

Just introduce yourself and learn the names of at least a half dozen of the people who live around you!

For the next step:

Exchange a simple form that lists names and contact information.

We’ll come up with a sample form in our next article, so watch for it. In the meanwhile, get out there and meet that first new neighbor!

* * * * * *

OK, that’s the first article in the series I’m intending to write for my community. The next article will have that little emergency contact form I mention. It will also have a place for people to list pets, medical conditions, etc. But sharing that kind of info doesn’t happen at the first meeting. It requires trust – so we’ll start with just introductions.

I’ll let you know how things go here.  Please let us know what steps you’ve taken in your community to help involve neighbors!

Your Emergency Plan Guide team

P.S. If you’re new here, you may not realize that our main emphasis at Emergency Plan Guide is on what we call “wholistic” planning! We believe that the impact of every big emergency extends well beyond your family. We are all in this together — and the more we work together, the safer we all will be. Does this sound like something you agree with?  If so, take a look at our Neighborhood Disaster Survival guidebooks. Each offers a path to organizing an emergency response team within your neighborhood,whether it’s made up of apartments, mobile homes or single family homes.

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