Tag: Top Ten

Revive Our Group!

Dog raising paw - showing need for help
Raise your hand if your group needs help!

After 18 months of not seeing each other’s faces, it was time for our Neighborhood Emergency Response Group to get back together. We needed to revive our group. We needed new ideas.  We needed to regain some momentum!

Here’s a quick story of how we have progressed over the past two months. While this describes a Neighborhood Emergency Response Group, I think the step-by-step activities could be used by just about any group! 

First step: Make sure a face-to-face meeting is safe.

When our “revival” started, COVID was declining in our community but we were still cautious. After all, the goal of a Neighborhood Emergency Response Group is to protect health and lives, and not threaten them!

So, while our clubhouse had been “officially re-opened to groups,” we decided that masks would be required. (As you can imagine, a few people then declined to come. . .)

In contrast, we held our most recent meeting, just yesterday, outside in a patio area. We enjoyed plenty of fresh air and masks were optional. The dynamics improved, along with the acoustics!

Second step: Advertise “Revive Our Group” by promising that everyone will be involved.  

Our meetings have traditionally taken place in a meeting room, with tables and chairs and someone leading the discussion. Shy attendees are able to get through without ever really joining in.

For our first Revival Meeting, we tried a new format.

Here’s how it worked.

Our meeting was advertised as having a goal of “collecting new ideas.” After a brief catch-up of what had happened during the pandemic shut-down, we identified four areas that we wanted to work on:

  • Group purpose and positioning
  • Recruitment of new members
  • Education and training
  • Budget and sponsorships

During this discussion, we gave every attendee a pad of yellow (or other color!) sticky and a pen. We invited them to write down their ideas, one idea per sticky. It was billed as a “brainstorm!’  (“Every idea is good. No judgment calls.”)

We labeled sheets of paper with the themes. (We happened to have bright pink paper, but any color will work!) At the given time, attendees all got up and pasted their individual stickies on the appropriate sheets. There was some jostling but it was good to get people out of their chairs. Here’s what one of the sheets looked like after the stickies had been posted:

Third step: Document EVERY idea, no matter how new or unusual.

After the meeting, I captured all the individual sticky ideas and turned them into a more formal list. I sent out the list with Instructions: “Please consider which ideas should be on our ultimate “Top Ten” list.”

Fourth step: Let your group members vote for their favorites.

A month after our first meeting we gathered for our second meeting. It was outdoors, face to face!  We started with refreshments (melon balls in carved up watermelon – labor of love from one of our volunteers!). We discussed each of the ideas on our Master List, and then people went over to the board where ideas were listed and they voted.

People voted for the activities they thought would be most do-able and most productive.

When they placed their votes (their initials) into the column labeled, “I will help,” we suddenly had a whole group of volunteers!

Fifth step: Pick the Top Ten,” assign an interim team leader – and let everyone get started!

Master list of activities: Vote for your favorite

The picture above shows just the top few lines of one of the two big ballot sheets.

  1. Note the column headers: Priority, Activity or Event, “I will help.”
  2. “Votes” are indicated by the sets of initials after each activity or event.
  3. The more sets of initials, the more popular or desirable the activity.
  4. The red checks indicate which events were chosen for the Top Ten. (Actually, we ended up with only 8 out of a total of 23 suggestions.)
  5. The red circles show the person chosen as interim team leader. Team leaders got a short list of “Project Planning Tips” to help them get started.

What about the activities and the people left over?

My next step will be to again document the Top Ten and list the volunteer team members. At the same time, I’ll encourage “orphans” to join in one of the first teams created or, if they want, to simply proceed on their own to develop their favorite activity.

I’ll report on how all that goes in an upcoming Advisory.

Conclusions from our first efforts to “Revive our group.”

  • Starting with refreshments works better than waiting until the end. If the meeting goes too long, people want to leave. (In our case, waiting too long would have put us all in the dark!)
  • Using pens and stickies to capture people’s input was particularly successful at engaging those people who aren’t comfortable speaking up.
  • Brainstorming – “Just come up with ideas, every idea is good.” – works to generate lots of ideas.
  • Sorting through all the ideas to pick the best (easiest? most popular?) takes time. It took a LOT of time. But our goal was to create energy by engaging more of our group members – and the effort paid off.

Just a couple more photos while it’s all still fresh in my mind!

Revive our Group party starts with watermelon
People helped themselves to melon-scooped balls from a carved watermelon on watermelon tablecloth!
Volunteersvote on best activities to revive the group
Note people in background studying Master List of activities before voting.

Within about 20 minutes from the time the photos were taken, this entire patio was dark. Fortunately, people brought lanterns (emergency lighting!) to allow us to finish up.

Our Watermelon Party doesn’t end this story. I’ll be writing again about the various events and how they develop. If you have held some successful events designed to engage group members, pleas let us know the details. We all need ways to stimulate participation and revive our groups!

Your Emergency Plan Guide team

P.S. You know, of course, that we’ve published a whole book with Emergency Preparedness Meeting Ideas. It has over 100 pages of ideas for meeting topics and formats to get you started or keep you busy.

Countdown to Survival


Top Ten Items For Your Emergency Plan

Help them SurviveIf you think you are already prepared, use this list as a quick check. If you suspect you’re missing a few things, use the list to fill in the gaps.

Food the Means to Prepare It and Eat It . . .

Water, Food and Medicines – Enough for the entire household including pets, to last for a minimum of 3 days . . . up to one or two weeks if possible. Best to stock up on the canned soups, staples and packaged foods you normally eat, and then rotate to keep supplies fresh. (We have enough sardines and packages of instant latte coffee to survive for a month!) Don’t overlook a 14-day supply of important medications (think customized first aid kit) for you, your children and your pet.

Prescriptions, Medical Devices, etc. – In a serious event, electricity, running water and plumbing facilities may not be available for hours or days. Without power, ATMs, computer systems and electronic cash registers will be inoperative, making the renewal of prescriptions challenging if not impossible. Likewise, life-sustaining devices such as oxygen machines that require power may have to be run on “inverters” (alternative power devices that convert the direct current of a car battery to alternating current). Inverters or small solar panels can also power small appliances, laptop computers, etc. and serve as a recharging source for smart phones, iPods and other electronics. In all these, wattage requirements will determine if the system works for you. Test everything in advance! Note: Power generators are both expensive and unwieldy and are not practical in most residential settings.

Camping Stove, Hand-Held Can Opener & Eating Utensils – Disposable plates & eating utensils may prove satisfactory but keep in mind that if the emergency continues, leaving you without power, water or garbage disposal or pickup, you will need to think outside of the box to survive. We recommend a propane-powered camping stove even if you have an outside barbecue.

Communications Are Your Link to Friends, Family and the Reality of the World Around You.

Emergency Radios that Receive NOAA and Local Government Broadcasts – With TV and internet out, the only sure way you will know what’s happening is via emergency radio transmissions. Have at least one full service radio for the home (two or more for larger, multi-story homes or community residences) and one smaller hand-held model for each family vehicle.

Walkie-Talkies – These hand-held multi-channel, battery-powered communicators will work regardless of a power outage. They are the best way for your CERT Teams to communicate with volunteers and for you to keep in touch with your neighbors following an emergency. We have extra units strategically placed throughout our house and a pair in each car.

Emergency Contact Numbers – When local telephone circuits are down or overloaded, you may be able to use out of state relatives or contacts as a way to relay messages to family members, employees or associates. But this works only if all parties are in on the scheme before a disaster strikes.

You Will Need Light and Heat When There is No Power.

Flashlights and Battery-Powered Lighting – With the widespread availability of LED (light emitting diode) devices, we use far fewer batteries than we used to with incandescent bulbs. Flashlights are cheap; have more than one. Keeping a small 250+ Lumen flashlight in a handy location in each room in the house ensures you can safely navigate in the dark. But you will also want a couple larger, more powerful (500+ Lumens) flashlights and possibly even a headlamp or two that leaves both hands free. And you’ll appreciate some LED table lamps or lanterns for general lighting needs.

Energizer Batteries

Winner in past tests

More on Batteries From Our Experience – We need batteries for everything from radios to flashlights to smart phones and other devices, typically AAA, AA, C & D sizes. Most batteries manufactured under the Duracell and Energizer brands are guaranteed to have a 10-year shelf life. In our experience, this is misleading. Ten years may be possible under ideal conditions . . . whatever those are.

With few exceptions, we have found the batteries to lose some of their power midway through this period, and many start to corrode. The basic “copper top” Duracell batteries seem to deteriorate more rapidly than the standard Energizers – 3 to 1 in our experience – but the new (and more expensive) “red-top” Duracell batteries seem to perform better. We only have a few months experience with them.

The bottom line: Whatever brand batteries you use, don’t leave radios or electronic devices sitting for long periods of non-use with batteries installed. Take the batteries out and look at them carefully before reinstalling. If you have devices with corroded terminals, they can sometimes be rejuvenated by using a cotton swab to apply a water & baking soda paste (which will absorb the corrosion) and removing the resulting dry crust with a wooden toothpick or a single prong of a broken plastic fork. This works about half the time, seemingly depending on how bad the buildup or corrosion was.

Clothing You Can Count On to Keep You Warm – Even in moderate climates nights get cold. Your emergency kit needs to contain at the very least a warm coat and sturdy shoes. It’s easy to add a space blanket and rain slicker. (A large plastic garbage bag is better than nothing.) Blankets in the car will be welcome when you’re stuck trying to get home.

Take Care of Personal Needs. 

Hygiene and Sanitation Items – From brushing your teeth to disposing of trash, garbage and body waste, a world without electricity or running water presents several significant challenges. The bigger the household (including pets), the greater the problem. In addition to trash bags, toilet tissue, cleaning and disinfectant supplies, you’ll want heavy-duty “compactor bags” to insert in toilets for collecting solid human waste. If you’re part of a community that includes elderly or frail residents, you may be faced with managing deceased humans. As distasteful as all this may be, pre-event planning will yield big dividends in comfort.

Who Will Be Turning To You?

Most Important Preparation of All is Your Neighborhood &/or Workplace – Take a moment and think about what a major calamity will mean to your immediate environment. If you are the only one who is prepared, your circumstances will be little better than your neighbors or co-workers. In the Tsunami that caused widespread devastation in Japan, it was neighbors helping each other that saved lives and made community survival possible.

While hard-core, serial “survivalists” devote considerable (often inordinate) resources to building “bug out bags” and even acquiring arsenals of weapons to protect themselves, the reality for most of us is not likely to be something out of Mad Max. Major roadways and potential escape routes will probably be congested, unnavigable or even impassable. Where would you go and how would you carry what you need to survive? For most of us, “survival in place” is the most realistic option. What can you do to help your co-workers and neighbors focus their energies on emergency preparation . . . for their sake and yours as well?

Your Emergency Plan Guide Team

Virginia Nicols, CERT graduate living in Southern California, has helped lead her local neighborhood emergency team for over a decade. Her website, http://EmergencyPlanGuide.org, reflects much of what that award-winning volunteer group has struggled with and accomplished over the years. This month, El Niño tops the preparedness agenda.


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