Tag: volunteers

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!

Safer at Home in an Emergency


 [This article is aimed at people living in a neighborhood with a clubhouse or community center. If you’re building a CERT group in such an environment, you can use these questions for valuable training.]

“In an emergency, we come to the clubhouse, right?”

“No, No, No!”

Think about it. In a real emergency, why would you head for the office, or the clubhouse, or any central meeting place in your community?

Consider these emergency conditions in a clubhouse.

  1. Will the clubhouse be standing?

Unless your clubhouse is brand new, and built to modern safety standards, it is just as likely to collapse as any other building, and probably more likely to collapse than a smaller and more compact building.

  1. Will the clubhouse be open?

If an emergency hits in the middle of the night, every door in the clubhouse will be locked and management will be away. Are you going to break in?

  1. Will there be electricity or phone service?

Does your office or clubhouse have an emergency generator? Where is someone who knows how to turn it on? If no generator, then there will be no lights (after emergency lights have gone off). No automatic doors, no elevators, no air conditioning, no heat. No emergency communications. Not safe!

  1. Will there be food?

A few centers may have kitchen facilities and some food supplies. In an emergency, however, the kitchen cupboards and refrigerators may be locked. There may be no way to heat water or to cook. Perhaps most disturbing – who will decide who gets to be first in line?

  1. Will there be bathroom facilities?

If water pipes are broken, the image of a crowd of people lining up to use one or two toilets that don’t work is . . . well, repugnant. And what if people bring their pets with them?

  1. Where will you get your medications?
  2. Finally, who will take charge of the group?

And will volunteers be willing to stay at the center hour after hour to help out?

Your home is the best place to be.

Unless it’s been designated as an official “evacuation center,” your central community area is most likely worse for survival than your own home.

That’s why our neighborhood CERT group stresses shelter in place.

If you take a look at the same questions from above, and fill in “in your own home,” here are some of the answers you’ll get.

  1. Will the house be standing?

Your apartment, single-family residence or mobile home is as likely to withstand an emergency as any other structure, depending on its age, the kind of disaster (earthquake, tornado, flood, etc.). And since it is your home, you have the opportunity to make it as safe as possible by fastening furniture to the walls, putting locks on cupboards, storing food and water, assembling tools, etc.

  1. Will your home be open?

If an emergency hits in the middle of the night, you’ll be there. And even if you have to get home, you’ll have keys or know how to get safely inside.

  1. Will there be electricity? How about emergency communications?

You may or may not have a personal home generator. But you certainly should have emergency lighting in your home, probably in the form of multiple flashlights and LED lanterns. At home, you can add or subtract clothing, add or take away blankets in order to adjust to weather conditions. And you should have access to emergency radios and first aid materials.

  1. Will there be food?

If you’ve done any preparing, you’ll have water and food, including some food that doesn’t need any cooking. You’ll have your medications – and food and medications for your pets, as well.

  1. Will there be bathroom facilities?

If water pipes are broken, you won’t be able to use your own toilet. Again, if you’ve done some preparing, you may be able to flush using outside sources of water (e.g. swimming pool water). Or you can put plastic bags into the toilet, secure them when they’re full and then put them somewhere outside. Not pleasant – but workable.

Are you thinking there’s a better place than home to be in an emergency?

Are there other people more qualified to help you than you are to help yourself?

Think again!
Virginia and Joe
Your Emergency Plan Guide Team

P.S.  Who do you know who lives in a complex with a clubhouse or community center?  Forward this to them right now!  Thanks.

P.P.S.  If you’re working to build a neighborhood CERT group, drop us a line.  We have some experiences and some training materials that we’d be glad to share.

CERT in Action!


CERT activates for a Missing Child

CERT volunteers

CERT Volunteers get their assignment. Photo thanks to OC Register and Lt. Bill Whalen of Irvine PD

Two weeks ago, at 9:30 at night, our phone began to ring. At the same time, my cell phone buzzed and a message came up on my computer screen: “This is not a test.”

Irvine police were calling on their volunteer support teams, including CERT, to respond to an emergency – a missing child. He had left home around 7 p.m., and disappeared into the night. The police department had already been searching on foot, with dogs and a helicopter, to no avail.

The police decided to activate their volunteers. According to the newspaper account, the Lieutenant in charge expected about 10 people to show up. They did, within 10 minutes. Within the next two hours, 130 people showed up!

The volunteers included members of both CERT, which is over 600 strong in Irvine, and IDEC, the Irvine Disaster Emergency Communications (amateur radio volunteers). Groups combed the area until 2:15 a.m. Police also used footage from local buses to try to capture information about the boy.

Ultimately, he emerged from a movie theatre in an adjoining town, and prevailed on a helpful citizen to take him home.

Take-aways from the event, according to the police:

  • The iAlert system for this community works. (I can attest to that! Read more about the iAlert program here: Severe Weather Alerts)
  • Regular trainings for CERT volunteers have kept the group engaged and willing to participate. (Irvine CERT holds regular, nearly monthly, trainings and community service activities.)
  • Organizers were hard-pressed to manage the number of volunteers that showed up. It was unprecedented.

A CERT simulation for this exact scenario had been scheduled for later this month, but it was cancelled. The real thing was better than any simulation would have been.

As an aside, here in our local neighborhood, another six people have signed up to take the no-cost city-sponsored CERT training that starts in July. It consists of 8 evening sessions, in which people review basic first aid, search and rescue and disaster psychology. Graduates get the chance to handle tools, practice with a fire extinguisher, and come out with a kit bag full of emergency equipment including flashlight, hard hat, dust mask and gloves.

Action item: Interested in CERT training in YOUR community? Head to the FEMA website’s State Directory at: www.FEMA.gov/community-emergency-response-teams .




Making Progress with Emergency Preparedness


A Frenzy of Recent Activity!

If you track the news like I do, you will have seen, over just the past couple of months, literally hundreds of cities announcing “Emergency Preparedness Training” meetings. Some of these meetings are sponsored by the local fire department. Some are held in conjunction with the local college. Some are aimed at children; a few have senior citizens as their target audience. Occasionally even an elected official takes the time to make an appearance.

All this activity seems to have been accelerated by our experiencing one disaster after another over the past few years. Lately, they seem to be happening even more frequently: storms, hurricanes, flooding, explosions, bombings . . . the list goes on.

Will these meetings make any difference?

From the standpoint of community preparedness, I welcome all this attention.

From the standpoint of being a trained Community Emergency Response Team member, I realize that a bunch of one-time meetings are just a start. Just a start! It takes weeks and months for people to change their level of general awareness. It takes them weeks and months and sometimes years to get around to taking even the most elementary precautions or preparations.

Which brings me to the point of this article . . .

Our ten-year track record!

CERT Volunteers

Ready and willing to help

Here in our local community, our CERT team has been actively building a plan, recruiting, training, assembling supplies, working with the local authorities – for nearly 10 years now.

Last week was no exception to our regular efforts. We held one of our annual training exercises. It involved Block Captains “discovering” emergencies located around the neighborhood, then taking the appropriate action and recording what they did.

Afterwards, we all got together with cookies and discussed what people had done, and what they might have done better.

While the “emergencies” were ones we might reasonably expect – a train wreck on the tracks next to one row of homes, an earthquake, a live shooter event, a wild fire requiring evacuation – the responses were also what one might reasonably expect.

The important thing – no one really had to think about what to do! After years of talking and writing articles and inviting neighbors in for coffee and a slide show…after a hundred meetings with as few as three people to more like 60 people in the group, it’s all paying off.

Now that’s progress!