You are better prepared if your community is prepared. Disasters are a time when communities come together, and if your community is ready, you will be significantly better off. If your neighbors have food and water, they will be able to help you help others, instead of having to worry about helping themselves. Here are some ways to help improve the preparedness of your community (specifically your neighborhood)
Meet your Neighbors
Introducing yourself to your neighbors isn’t something that should be done amidst a pile of ruble and debris. Meeting your neighbors doesn’t mean you need to be best friends, but knowing who they are is important. As neighbors you will have shared issues and concerns and establishing a relationship during a non-emergency time definitely preferred.
Identify Your Skills
There area variety of ways to do this. You can informally ask your neighbors what skills they have and what their interests in preparedness are, or you can do a more formal meeting (like Map Your Neighborhood) that brings your neighbors together and identifies key skills and gaps. Whichever way you go, the idea is to figure out who’s on the proverbial “preparedness team” and what skills they can bring to the party. Knowing what skills you have available as a neighborhood also helps identify skills you are missing. Once you know what you’re missing, you can see if any neighbors would be willing to learn some of these skills, individually or as a group. Some of these helpful skills include:
- Advanced First Aid
- Radio Communications (HAM radio)
- Community Emergency Response Training (CERT) – This is a great overview training and everyone in your neighborhood should be encouraged to take it. In our area, the program is an 8 week class with 7 evening meetings and a Saturday morning evaluation. If you divide up as a neighborhood, you can even switch off as babysitters so the parents of small children can attend too.
There are two facets to this organization step. The first piece is to help your neighbors establish their personal supplies and preparedness level. Make sure they know how much food and water to have on hand and ask them if they have any camping gear so they will have shelter and cooking options. This makes sure that they will have their basic needs met and not be a strain on other resources (like yours, for example).
The second piece it to identify shared supplies that you can access as a community. There are a variety of reasons for this and this idea can manifest itself differently for each neighborhood. Here are some examples:
- Each house should have its own emergency toilet, but you can pool sanitation supplies like showers, replacement bags (toilet and garbage), and cleaning supplies at a couple of houses. Several neighbors can pool funds to purchase the supplies, and then rotate the storage responsibility.
- Each house should have a basic first aid kit, but if you have a doctor or EMT in your neighborhood, they could have a larger medical setup. Neighbors could pool some money to help purchase additional medical equipment or supplies that the medical professional would then be able to use in an emergency for the good of the neighbors.
- Each house may not need a walkie talkie, but if a few houses have them, you can coordinate supplies and situation status from one end of the neighborhood to the other very quickly. Additionally, if one or two neighbors have a HAM radio license, they can communicate the neighborhood’s status to other neighborhoods or first responders.
Community can be a great point of leverage during a disaster. If you pull together and are organized, the whole will be much greater than the sum of its parts. However, if you remain strangers and hide behind your fences, your experience during a disaster will be much more difficult.