Tag: neighbors

Get something going with neighbors!

Neighbors getting together on rooftop planning for summer preparedness activities
Does your neighborhood look like this? Every neighborhood is different – but neighbors are neighbors!

We’re seeing our neighbors again for the first time in a LONG time!

Three weeks ago I went to my first face-to-face, no-masks meeting since mid-March 2020. After 14 months of being shut-in at home, I felt almost giddy! That was the first such meeting. Since then, I’ve been part of two more. It’s been invigorating! In fact, a desire to “Get something new going!” seems to be catching!

In case you’re ready to get something going, too, here is an idea for  spreading the preparedness word.

Write and share a personal story about disaster!

I was encouraged to write just such a story when I saw an invitation on LinkedIn. It came from Mark Keim, MD, one of the emergency preparedness professionals I follow. He had put out a Help Wanted blurb, asking for personal stories to include as part of a series on his website, DisasterDoc.org. The website is a comprehensive one, focused on preventing public health emergencies around the world.

I submitted my story, and it was accepted! It is another look at what happened to us and our neighbors last year when we were threatened by a wildfire. You may want to give this version a quick read on the DisasterDoc blog, particularly if you are working with any fire departments or city emergency management agencies. For sure, evacuation will be on the danger list for many this summer!

Virginia Nicols' article announced on LinkedIn

The picture shows how my article was announced on LinkedIn. And here’s the link to the website blog page where the article appears: https://disasterdoc.org/blog/

While you’re there, be sure to read Mark’s post titled “How a children’s book saved my life!” That personal story is what caught my attention in the first place.

OK, with all that background, here’s my own HELP WANTED blurb, and your chance to get something new going!

Let’s hear YOUR story of an experience you’ve had working with neighbors in an emergency or preparing for one.

You wouldn’t be reading this if it didn’t matter to you what happens to other people in an emergency. Why do I know that?  Because anyone interested in preparedness knows you can’t really prepare all by yourself!

After all, when the hurricane hits, and your home is threatened by storm surge, so is every home around you. When the power goes out, what your neighbors do – or likely don’t do – comes right back to haunt you!

Here’s an excerpt from Elizabeth’s story about neighborhood preparedness.

Elizabeth wrote to me just a couple of weeks ago about having helped plan and practice an evacuation of her Northern California mobilehome park neighborhood – in advance of this summer’s wildfire season.

Her intro sentence was . . .“Well, we had our modified, practice Evacuation Drill last weekend and if I do say so myself, it went off rather well.”

Her report went on to talk about who participated and who didn’t, how many people had Go-bags at the ready, what a difference the donut hole snacks made.

She further reported — and this is key — that “Volunteers on almost every street offered to help disabled folks, notify them, and help them get out of the park. That is still a big issue! Where does personal responsibility start? Where does it end? What responsibility do we have for our neighbors?

Great, eh? What story can you share? Maybe . . .

  • You took a great Red Cross class or finished a refresher course? (The takeaway?)
  • You’ve met with just a few neighbors to find out where the gas line shut-offs are? (What prompted it?)
  • You’ve planned emergency drills with teachers at your kid’s school? (Were your efforts welcomed?)
  • You made it through the Texas power outage? (What helped?)
  • You’re an EMT and have a story to share about your team? (Heroes all!)

We’d love to know what you and your neighbors have done, or are doing, to be safer and smarter in the face of emergencies.

Nothing works like real stories to give the rest of us encouragement and ideas!

Just drop me an email with your idea! We’ll make sure you get your story written and published here as part of our “Get something going with neighbors” focus for the summer!

Your Emergency Plan Guide team

P.S. Many websites managed by “regular folks” are devoted to prepping, wilderness survival skills, etc. We do a lot of that too, but what we do that sets Emergency Plan Guide apart is getting the wider community involved. This Advisory is another effort to do that – and your story will help!

Apartment Survival


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 whole lot of ideas about organizing your neighbors, check out Emergency Preparedness for Apartment Communities. It discusses getting your own preparedness act together and then helping neighbors get prepared, too.

Protecting Yourself in an Emergency


Home security

Guidebook to home defense

We’ve said this before and no doubt we’ll repeat it more than once in the future. But the recent school shooting in Newtown has given new life to the continuing controversy about firearms – especially assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, etc. – for self-protection. If you’ve watched any of the “Doomsday Preppers” TV shows on the NatGeo Channel, you may have been shocked by the extent that some people go to for their imagined need for survival in a major catastrophe. Their arsenals look more like preparation for war.

Here are three things to think about if you are truly worried about having to protect yourself and your property in the event of a major disaster event. The first two are, in our opinion, negative approaches to life.  The third is in keeping with our philosophy of taking positive action.

Assault weapons are a terrible choice.

First, as any combat veteran will tell you, few people have the natural ability to calmly shoot people with a handgun, much less a rapid-firing assault weapon. Such weapons require training and discipline if you ONLY plan to hit a specific target while the adrenalin is flowing fast and heavy. The chances of hitting innocent people or things around and beyond the target are usually very high. There’s a reason mass murders use these weapons . . . they kill and destroy indiscriminately.

Shotguns aren’t a whole lot better.

Second, the best firearm in a self-defense circumstance is usually a shotgun. It has a limited range but a “spread” in the shot pattern that makes it more likely to hit the intended target on the first shot. You don’t have to be a marksman or highly-trained soldier to be effective with it. The bottom line, however, is if you find yourself having to use it, it’s still likely to take someone’s life. And, regardless of the situation, even if there is no legal consequence, that’s something you will have to live with.

Trusted Friends — Absolutely Your Best Protection.

Third, and most important of all in our opinion, your best protection in an emergency will be good neighbors – people you know and can trust immediately, instead of mistrust. We have seen over and over again the natural tendency of people to help one another following a catastrophic event. And, the more your neighbors are trained and prepared to survive themselves, the better equipped they will be to help you and vice versa. Unlike the first two means of self-protection, you can count on having enough friends if you have allowed for them.  And unlike the first two means of self-protection, this is one that saves lives instead of taking them.

Programs like the Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) training are excellent examples of the best way to prepare yourself and to work along the side your neighbors as an effective team. CERT neighborhoods will not only have a better chance of surviving, but will emerge as a true community with pride in having known what to do in advance . . . and possibly having saved lives and property because of their training.


The Fire Next Door!


It could have been so much worse.

We had an emergency in our neighborhood this last week. Didn’t fall into the category of widespread disaster, but we are all still shaking our heads about “what could have been” if it had been a windy day…

House burning

A total loss

One of our elderly neighbors called AAA because her car wouldn’t start. She hadn’t used it in months. Well, AAA came, started the car, and suggested that the owner let it run “for a while.”

An hour later, she had fallen asleep. And that car, parked right alongside the house, was beginning to smoke.

Quick action by observant neighbors.

When the mailman came by, the car and carport were engulfed in smoke, and flames were licking at the house itself. About that time neighbors saw the flames, too, and called the fire department. The mailman pounded on the door and pulled the shaky and confused resident right out into the street. She was safe.

Meanwhile, the house was burning.  Three different fire stations responded to the 911 calls, as did a number of police cars.

By the time First Responders arrived…

By the time they arrived, CERT members had taken in the homeowner and called her relatives, and were clearing the streets of gawkers in order to allow ready access to the First Responders.  CERT training made it easy for these neighbors to act promptly and with authority!  The CERT team members didn’t save the house — even the fire department couldn’t do that — but the neighborhood was definitely safer as a result of their actions.

Action Item: Make sure all your cars are properly maintained, exercised on a regular basis, and always have at least a half-tank full of fresh gas in case you need to evacuate. This simple discipline will save your investment, and may well save your life.