Neighborhood Preparedness Faire — Lessons Learned


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

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  1. Russ Flanigan