When something happens, your most immediate source of support is the people living around you
Many of us grew up in tight-knit neighborhoods, where everyone knew each other and the sense of community was strong. Those kinds of neighborhoods may not be as common today as they once were, but they can make a big difference in how, or how well, we all survive in the face of disaster.
When something happens, your most immediate source of support is the people living around you. A united neighborhood can help take care of the elderly and the young, can share food, and make sure everyone is warm.
Several communities in Oregon are rebuilding the traditional concept of neighborliness to create effective strategies for surviving a catastrophic event. In Bandon, Ashland, and in several other communities, the Map Your Neighborhood tool is getting a lot of attention.
Map Your Neighborhood is simple. People gather at a home in their neighborhood for a 90-minute meeting where they watch a video, learn the nine steps to take immediately following disaster (see “Resources,” below). They then make an inventory of people, pets, needs, skills and equipment, and finally, plan a team approach to help each other.
Bandon began using Map Your Neighborhood in 2010 as a way to organize residents and raise the awareness for disaster planning. Almost half the people in Bandon live in a tsunami inundation zone, and preparedness is getting new attention there in the face of increasing knowledge about the likelihood of a Cascadia Subduction Zone event.
“Most people don’t even want to think about the possibility of a tsunami,” says Bill Russell, co-founder with his wife, Joan, of the new BandonPrepares nonprofit group (www.banprep.org).
“The earthquake in Japan helped some, but not as much as I would have wished. People are just not anxious to talk about the possibility of a disaster.”
The group’s Preparedness Faire in September encouraged people to participate in Map Your Neighborhood. Interest in the program and in preparedness in general was high, Russell says. Of the 100 people who attended the fair, 40 signed up to help with BandonPrepares, and 30 signed up for the Certified Emergency Response Team training.
BandonPrepares is continuing its neighborhood mapping project, as well as other preparedness initiatives. The group organizes regular CERT sessions, sponsors first aid classes, and is exploring the idea of establishing survivable storage space for residents and area businesses.
“We can’t wait for help from the outside to reestablish business,” Russell says. “When the ground starts shaking, it’s too late to prepare.”
Resources to prepare your neighborhood
There are many resources available for people wishing to connect with their neighbors on preparedness.
FEMA offers the Neighbors Helping Neighbors program, which provides community groups with tools and preparedness training opportunities, including an educational module for community leaders called “Community Preparedness: Simple Activities for Everyone.” For more information, visit: the ready.gov website.
Map Your Neighborhood was developed by Washington state emergency managers, and has been adapted for use across the country. For information about how to establish the program in your area, contact Oregon’s Department of Geology and Mineral Industries at (971) 673-1555.
At the first Map Your Neighborhood meeting, participants will:
- Learn the “9 Steps to Take Immediately Following a Disaster” to secure your home and to protect your neighborhood.
- Identify the Skills and Equipment each neighbor has that would be useful in an effective disaster response. Knowing which neighbors have supplies and skills helps your disaster response be timely, and allows everyone to contribute in a meaningful way.
- Create a neighborhood map identifying the locations of natural gas and propane tanks.
- Create a contact list that helps identify those with specific needs such as elderly, disabled, or children who may be home alone.
- Work together as a team to evaluate your neighborhood during the first hour following a disaster and take action.
Article reprinted with permission from Community Vitality Publication, Spring 2014, © 2014 The Ford Family Foundation. For the full Community Vitality edition of ”The Time to Prepare”, visit http://www.community-vitality.org/Spring2014TimeToPrepare.html