3 Steps to Family and Neighborhood Emergency Preparedness
Is your neighborhood participating in the 3 Steps Program yet? Since our start in January of 1999, dozens of neighborhoods, cities, and church groups have joined us in this effort to help their neighborhoods get prepared rather than just people working to get prepared as individual families. They have come to the realization that they will never be truly prepared until they get organized and prepared as a neighborhood and have a plan worked out as to how they will work together to help each other.
Getting started is actually very simple. You could do it today yourself! Step 1 of this program works like this:
a. Call up a friend or two in your neighborhood (if you want to) and ask them if they will help you do this "Neighborhood Preparedness Project". You are now the "Neighborhood Emergency Preparedness Committee".
b. Click here and order yourselves copies of the 3 Steps booklet. Read the first 20 pages and thumb through the rest (40 more pages) so that you understand how the program works and how the booklet can help you.
c. Sit down and pull out a piece of paper and draw a map of your neighborhood (or get in the drawer and pull a map out that you already have). What exactly is your neighborhood? It can be anything you want it to be. It is wise and easier to use boundaries of an already existing affinity group like a trailer park, a housing development, a congregation with geographical boundaries, or a subdivision, if you have such a situation; but you'll be able to see what makes up a neighborhood with no problem. About 100-150 families is a good size to work with. Many people have told us of the immense gratitude their neighbors have expressed that they are willing to do this effort for their neighborhoods.
d. Having determined what your neighborhood is, decide whose support it would be helpful to have: local church leaders, apartment building owners and managers, city neighborhood leaders, city leaders... You can do a wonderful community service project like this without anyone's permission, but your efforts will be greatly multiplied by having the support of other people who have a stewardship over the welfare of this same group. Approach those you feel it is important to coordinate your efforts with, explain what you are wanting to do, and see what they are willing to do to support you. They could write a letter of support to the families in your neighborhood, be willing to meet with you occasionally to coordinate efforts, and generally make your job easier and more effective.
e. Now go back to your map and divide up the entire neighborhood into what we call "Groups of 10" by drawing circles around groups of approximately 10 adjacent families each. (Page 8 of the 3 Stepsbooklet shows an example.) Your groups might have a few more or a few less families in them. You just decide what seems to work best for your neighborhood. My neighborhood has 112 families in it, so I have 12 "groups of 10". 6 of my groups actually do have 10 families in them, but 2 have 11 families , 2 have 9, 1 has 8, and 1 has 7. You won't have any trouble seeing what is best for how to divide up your neighborhood.
f. Now look at your map with groups circled on it and decide for each group who would make a good "Captain of 10" and who would be willing to say yes if you asked them. A captain is a person over a Group of 10 who is willing to help you in this effort. It's not a time-consuming commitment. What you are asking the captains to do is to be willing to meet with you occasionally (once a month at most) and to disseminate information to the families in their group. When you are doing a group buy on something (Step 2) and need to have fliers and order forms passed out, you give a set to each captain, and the captain passes them out to the families in their group. The captain also has the group families meet together to discuss this effort and to help everyone assess where they are and what they need. When a friend of mine attended her first Group of 10 meeting, she said it was wonderful. She finally felt safe knowing that the people in her little group were meeting and working together to plan in advance how they would help each other in an emergency. Her group talked about how well prepared each of them was or wasn't and what they planned to do to improve things.
Having decided who would be your best choice for captains, ask them--by phone, or in person, or through a letter that explains this whole idea.
g. After your captains have said "yes", meet with them and talk about this program in detail. It's a good idea to have each of them, and actually every member of your neighborhood, have a copy of the 3 Steps booklet. You can prioritize the needs of your neighborhood and make a basic year's plan for what you want to accomplish. (See Step 2 on page 9 of the booklet.)
h. In a "Group of 10" meeting, each group should decide where their group staging area will be. A staging area is a predetermined location where everyone meets as soon as possible after a disaster happens. In my neighborhood each group has picked the largest, flattest, and clearest front grass in their group for their staging area. It's also a good idea to pick an alternative staging area and a third indoor option in case something happens to the first staging area or in case meeting outside is not the best option.
The idea of having a staging area is something we've adopted from the CERT course (Community Emergency Response Team training--Step 3 of the 3 Steps plan). What it does for a neighborhood to have staging areas selected in advance is incredible. Every man, woman, and child (old enough to be conscious) is taught and drilled to know where their staging area is and knows to meet there as soon as possible after a disaster--after they have done all they need to do to take care of their own families. This means that within a few minutes, everyone in a group who is home and OK will show up at the staging area. Then the group can assess within seconds who is not home or not OK and organize efforts to help the rest of the members of the group. The group can utilize the skills and efforts of everyone who has shown up to organize and run a rescue effort. There is a place for everyone. The diagram on page 15 of the 3 Steps booklet shows 11 different jobs that people could be assigned to do. While some people watch little children, others organize search and rescue. Others are in charge of first aid, food and water, setting up a sanitation area, communications, transportation, etc. And because everyone able to come has come to the staging area, no effort is wasted looking for people who are OK anyway. Only the exceptions--those who haven't shown up--need to be dealt with. Also, people are not being asked to leave their families to go some long distance to help rescue others. They are helping the families within their small Groups of 10 while they can see with their own eyes that the rest of their family is being watched over by the group. Later, when the group has done all that they can for themselves, they can go help other groups or call on other groups for more help if needed.
Think of how much it will cut down on chaos in a disaster to have this planned in advance. You can picture how this could work in something like an earthquake or a disaster-level windstorm. If the disaster is something lesser like a blizzard or power outage in the winter, one adult from each family can meet at the indoor staging area and within seconds assess who has wood-burning stoves or other heat sources, and where to temporarily relocate other families in need within the group.
This is Step 1. It should take you 15 minutes to draw a neighborhood map (10 seconds if you have one in the drawer already), 5 minutes to circle the Groups of 10, 15 minutes to decide who to ask to be captains, 1 day to ask the captains to be captains and to come to an initial meeting at your home. You might need more time to coordinate efforts with and gain the support of other local community leaders, but it will be worth it. All this might seem scary, but you can do this. You can. It's a good idea. More neighborhoods are getting involved in this every day. And you don't have to do it alone. The booklet will help you; your neighbors and friends will help you. And if you happen to live near Provo, Utah, we will help you. We provide neighborhood training sessions at your request. Just contact us by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Doing this plan builds community among neighbors.
It adds to feelings of security and closeness for everyone involved.
It increases our level of true preparedness exponentially. If you
set your goal to accomplish Step 1 this week, you will be ready to move
on to Step 2, doing group buys, and Step 3, getting rescue training for
large numbers of people in your neighborhood. It then won't matter
if the big earthquake finally happens or a microburst hits or whatever.
You will finally be prepared, and so will your neighborhood; and you can
feel peace and continue to live your lives with every hope of joy.
HELPS FOR IMPLEMENTING STEP 1
Defining and Organizing Your Neighborhood
After we had organized into Groups of 10 families and had appointed
captains, we met with our captins about once a month to prioritze and plan
our needs. Pages 16-19 of the 3
Steps booklet are examples of lists, agendas, handouts,
and goals that we used at these meetings:
EMERGENCY PREPAREDNESS COMMITTEE MEMBERS
OTHER TOPICS OF INTEREST TO THE NEIGHBORHOOD
1. Organize neighborhood into Groups of 10 with Captains over each group.
2. Help each other obtain the supplies, knowledge, and skills necessary to deal with an emergency.
3. Facilitate Neighborhood Watch through the groups.
4. Build a sense of community and a spirit of love and sharing within the groups that will make working together before, during, and after an emergency easy and successful.
5. Encourage as many neighbors as possible to get emergency training such as CERT. Then practice together and review semiannually.
1. The Neighborhood Emergency Preparedness Committee will meet once a month with the Captains in the beginning and then later only as often as is necessary.
2. Each Captain will meet with his/her group when needed to convey information, assess needs, help each other, collect orders, and build community.
3. We hope that each group will develop a sense of community and love for each other that will make it possible for them to help each other do what it takes to get everyone in the group sufficiently prepared.
4. We hope that, where possible, groups will attempt to produce an excess of items so that we can share the extras with other groups who might have greater needs.
5. As we help each other, we need to be sensitive to each other's feelings
and needs for privacy and do our best not to offend anyone in an attempt
to help them. We need to offer information and opportunities to participate
but always let families make their own decisions without causing them to
feel guilty or apart from the Group.