Neighbors Helping Neighbors After Disasters
When disaster strikes, your first responders will be your neighbors. It’s true. Government studies found, “In major disasters, between 70% to 95% of victims are rescued by neighbors, not professional responders.” After natural disasters, emergency first responders tend to be unable to get to every individual in need due to high demands or impassable roads. As a result, it is common for people to rely on the help of their neighbors in the immediate aftermath of a major disaster like an earthquake, flood, tornado, or hurricane.
Daniel Aldrich, an associate professor of political science, explains, “Knowing your neighbors could be the difference between life and death when it comes to surviving a disaster. Survival rates often depended on how well individuals were connected to people in their communities.”
We see evidence of this after every disaster on the news. The people closest are the first ones to rush to help. For example, Carson City Emergency Management explains, “Past earthquakes thrust many untrained people into positions of providing first aid and rescuing people.” Even during the COVID-19 pandemic, neighbors came together to make sure their most vulnerable neighbors were safe and healthy by offering grocery pickups.
The problem is that, as a whole, society has become more disconnected from our neighbors. Before we were told to shelter-in-place during the COVID-19 pandemic, many of us didn’t even know our neighbors. And this can be the difference between life and death.
By being aware of who lives around you and what needs there are in your neighborhood, you are much more prepared to survive a disaster than those who don’t know their neighbors. But “knowing your neighbors” goes beyond simply recognizing familiar faces. That’s why this month’s newsletter focuses on what you need to know about your neighbors to ensure you are prepared to survive a disaster together.
Know Your Neighborhood
The first thing you must know is your neighborhood. This means you should define the area closest to you, including the homes, roads, and landscape. For example, while we say know your neighborhood, some neighborhoods are quite large. Instead of attempting to know an entire neighborhood, you should identify a manageable area, such as the twenty houses closest to your home.
You should also know the lay of the land, such as roads, waterways, wooded areas, and entry points. You should also take note of nearby businesses, schools, churches, and community centers. These places may work as neighborhood meeting points.
Once you have identified the area, you need to know how many people live in each home and how to contact them in an emergency. We know this can seem daunting, but it can be done. Keep reading, and we’ll give you an easy way to get to know your neighbors.
Know the Threats
As you are getting to know the area around your home, you should be on the lookout for potential threats. For example, some neighborhoods are in flood zones or earthquake liquefaction zones, while the landscape of other neighborhoods puts them at risk for events like landslides or chemical emergencies. As you consider your neighborhood, make a note of potential threats that put your community at risk, and don’t forget to think about things like overhead wires, gas mains and trees that pose a threat.
Know Who is in Need
As you get to know who lives in each house in your designated section, you should pay careful to those who are most vulnerable, such as children at home while parents work or the elderly. In the event of an emergency, these individuals will rely on their neighbors for assistance. The County of Los Angeles lists the following vulnerable groups of people that neighbors should be sure to include when considering emergency preparedness:
Neighbors with disabilities and others of all ages who may need help following a disaster
Neighbors who have reduced ability or inability to see, read, walk, speak, hear, learn, remember, understand, or respond
Neighbors with visible disabilities such as wheelchair users, people who are blind, and those with hidden needs and disability such as heart conditions, respiratory conditions, emotional or mental health conditions, arthritis, significant allergies, asthma, or chemical and other environmental sensitivities
Individuals who may lack transportation, single working parents, and those who may have limited or no ability to speak, read, or understand English and will need translated information
Know Who Has Training
Likewise, it is also important to know who in your neighborhood has emergency response training. When a disaster occurs, it is extremely helpful to know who to call who can perform first aid or has medical skills. Even better, encourage your neighbors to form a community emergency response team and get training. The Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) program teaches basic disaster response skills.
But this goes beyond emergency response training. By knowing your neighbors, you will also know who can speak another language that may be necessary for communicating with someone in need. It also includes identifying who has carpentry and plumbing skills, which are necessary after a major disaster.
Know Where to Find Resources
Additionally, it is wise to know where to find resources in your neighborhood and know your neighborhood assets. For example, since water is essential for survival, it will be helpful to know which neighbor has a Waterfull Barrel with clean water. Similarly, knowing which neighbor has an accessible vehicle and who has a vehicle with four-wheel drive can be a lifesaver. Take inventory and consider where you can find supplies, such as chainsaws, communication equipment, first aid supplies, and generators.
Get to Know Your Neighbors
Since your neighbors are the ones who will help you survive after a disaster, it is important to get to know them. It’s easier than you think. Begin by joining Nextdoor – the a social site for neighborhoods where you can share news and request help. Once you are on Nextdoor, tell your neighbors you’d like to compile a contact list with names, needs, and resources to Map Your Neighborhood in the event of a disaster or emergency. (In this newsletter’s DIY section, we’ll give you the steps you need to Map the Neighborhood).
Another popular way to encourage neighbors to get to know one another and look out for each other is through the National Neighborhood Watch program. Even the neighbors who are less social will be interested in doing what they can to protect the neighborhood from crime, such as attending neighborhood watch meetings. The National Neighborhood Watch website has the resources you need to start a new watch in your neighborhood.
If you don’t get the response you’d hope for, then go about it the old-fashioned way and say hello. Invite your neighbors to a block party or neighborhood meeting. Just make sure you have a contact sheet ready for them to fill out!
Water is Essential. Introduce Your Neighbors to the Waterfull Barrel.
Introduce your neighbors to the 30-gallon emergency water solution every household needs. If a disaster ever happens, your neighbors can rest assured that they will have drinkable water with the Waterfull Barrel.
DIY: Map the Neighborhood
The purpose of mapping your neighborhood is to prepare for emergencies by evaluating their neighborhood. Follow these steps to Map Your Neighborhood:
Identify a neighborhood gathering site.
Create a neighborhood skills inventory. List the names of those with skills helpful in emergencies, such as first aid, childcare, search and rescue, plumbing, carpentry, electrical, firefighting, and leadership.
Create a neighborhood supplies inventory. List which homes have access to first aid supplies, chainsaws, fire extinguishers, a Waterfull Barrel, communication devices, weather radios, ladders, crowbars, ropes and generators.
Sketch a basic diagram of the neighborhood with streets and houses. Be sure to include house numbers.
Write out a contact list that corresponds to the neighborhood map house numbers. Include the names of the adults living in the home, phone, and email. Make special note of any children or vulnerable residents who may need assistance.
While it is easy to do it yourself, you may find these predesigned Map Your Neighborhood guide helpful. You can also watch this YouTube video to learn how to use Google Maps to make your neighborhood emergency map.
Waterfull Selected for the Smart Cities Startup Challenge
We are proud to announce that Waterfull has been selected for the Smart Cities Startup Challenge at this year’s conference and expo. The event will take place November 16–19, 2020 in National Harbor, Maryland. The Smart Cities Startup Challenge invites the leading startups that are providing transformational solutions to pitch their solution to an on-site review panel of investment, city, and industry prospectors.