Tag: emergency response group

Counting On Your Neighbors


Preparedness Training in Mandarin

How confident are you about your neighbors’ level of preparedness?

The title of this Advisory is taken from our Neighborhood Disaster Survival Guides. If you’ve looked at one of the Guides, you’ll remember that Part One is titled “Your Personal Safety,” and Part Two is titled, “Counting On Your Neighbors.”

  • How confident are you about your neighbors?
  • Are they prepared for emergencies?
  • Would they be able to step up to help you, or others?
  • Would they be able to evacuate?

Heck, do you even KNOW your neighbors?

Every community is different, of course. And the make up of communities can change rather quickly. So while a couple of years ago you could answer the questions above, you may not be so sure today.

That’s why building a local Neighborhood Emergency Response Team that keeps going is so important!

Our neighborhood keeps changing.

Our local community here is pretty diverse, and as residents move out and in, we’re getting ever more new neighbors who . . .

  • don’t know what threats they should anticipate (earthquake, tsunami, flood?)
  • don’t know about our city and county emergency services
  • have never even heard of emergency preparedness.

Moreover, many of our new neighbors do not speak English as a first or even second language.

When someone asks me, “Are you counting on your neighbors?” it’s tough to answer affirmatively!

How to reach new neighbors?

I’ve written before about some of the activities we’ve sponsored in order to attract interest, educate neighbors, etc.

(One of the most popular was putting a bottle of water on each doorstep with a message saying, “Here’s a start for your own emergency supply kit. Don’t expect your neighbors to do anything more . . .!”  Well, it didn’t say that exactly, but that was the message!)

Today I wanted to report on yet another outreach event that happened just last week. It was a first for us.

Pick a specific target audience.

A growing number of our senior neighbors are coming directly from China and Taiwan. They haven’t lived in the U.S. before, so while they may know a few words of English, it’s not something they used in daily life or even studied in school. (Today, of course, all Chinese school children are learning English.)

Engaging these folks in our emergency response activities was pretty impossible until we tried several things:

  1. A few of our community leaders got together to teach a series of informal English classes. The classes were fun and funny – and students and teachers got to know one another.
  2. After the classes were over, some of the Chinese-speaking students kept meeting. One of their standing “agenda items” is to go over the community calendar with a group leader who translates everything.
  3. Finally, after our city’s CERT group came to give a presentation to our entire resident community, the Chinese-speaking group leader and I decided to put on a repeat performance – just for the Chinese speakers.

That’s the picture you see above. Our evening started with a pot luck dinner, then continued for a full 90 minutes while our Mandarin-speaking police officer went through the basics of emergency planning, earthquake preparedness etc. She was talented and the audience was totally engaged!

I even sneaked in another English lesson. And I passed along the discount coupons made available by our local hardware store.

Follow up!

As a result of this meeting, my own circle of friends has expanded. (My Chinese vocabulary remains stuck at 3 words.) I’m working with the leader and her core group to make sure these folks get more good training on a regular basis. First on the agenda, a great handout – in Chinese – from the Earthquake Country Alliance.

The group members are all looking forward to the training, and actually to a repeat visit from the policewoman. I’m looking forward to counting on these neighbors when the disaster hits!

Expect some push-back.

A couple of days after the dinner meeting, I mentioned it in a different setting. A long-time neighbor commented: “Well, as long as we keep doing things for them in their own language they will never learn English.”

Hm. I agree with that statement. I think everyone in the U.S. should learn English. (That’s why I was part of the teaching team! For that matter, I’ve taught ESL in a variety of settings over the years.)

But when it comes to an emergency, I am not willing to watch people get into trouble – or get ME into trouble – when some basic information would make all the difference!

And at Emergency Plan Guide the concept of “us” vs. “them” isn’t too popular! We don’t think anyone is unworthy of assistance or training. Our goal is all-inclusive — to help individuals and their communities become stronger and more resilient.

Where do you go from here to have a better chance of counting on your neighbors?

What challenges do you have in organizing YOUR community? What successes have you had in attracting people to emergency preparedness activities? What hasn’t worked? Who have you called on as resources?

Please send a message and share a story about your best meeting, of just drop your story into the comment box below to share with everyone!!

Your Emergency Plan Guide team

P.S. I’ve mentioned a few resources in this Advisory. Here are some direct links if you want to track them down:

  • The Neighborhood Disaster Survival Series —  Each of the three books in the Community series has hundreds of ideas for building a neighborhood group and a “durable” emergency preparedness plan.
  • Message in a Bottle This is an inexpensive, one-time activity designed to remind everyone in the community about building up a supply of emergency food and water.
  • Partnership with the Local Hardware Store  You may be familiar with multi-tools or gas-shut-off wrenches or fire starters, but that doesn’t mean everyone is. Here’s how we partnered with our local hardware store for a great show-and-tell meeting.