“There’s not going to be an earthquake. It’s not going to happen. But if there is an earthquake, we have to be prepared.”
So began the neighborhood meeting on emergency preparedness. Six of us gathered, representing about half the homes on the block. We wanted to talk about disaster readiness from a local community perspective.
We talked about the basics: water, food, and heating. And perhaps most importantly, we discussed getting people’s emergency contact info out to other members of the neighborhood.
I was impressed by what my neighbors were already doing: almost everyone had enough food and water for 2 weeks, and most of us were working towards 3 weeks of provisions. We talked a lot about communication in the event of an emergency. The consensus was that, as a neighborhood, we needed to know each other’s emergency contacts so that, in the event there was an emergency, we’d be able to get the kids to the right people, get in touch with the spouse and call the out of state contact.
This seems to me to be a missing link in most emergency preparedness discussions. The checklists of first aid stuff and hiking boots and bottled water is all well and good, but the neighbors knowing how to get in touch with Nick if something happened to me is even more first-principle.
Our neighborhood organizer put together a simple form for us to fill out. As a street, we are going to swap emergency contact info so that information is disseminated.
Our neighborhood organizer had a few other great tips: she talked to us about her gas and water shutoff tools and told us where they were located, so if any of us needed them they would be accessible. She keeps her tools outside, and the gas shut-off is hung from the gas main so it would be very simple for any neighbor to shut off her gas if an emergency necessitated.
She also showed us the Sawyer water filtration system she opted to buy instead of stockpiling fresh water. In our neighborhood we have several above-ground streams and a very high water table, so the argument to keep a high-quality filtration system in the home for emergency fresh water is very convincing.
The system our neighborhood organizer bought and recommended has a million-gallon life. Basically she could keep the street supplied with pure water for as long as the streams didn’t run dry. I went to the Saywer website to check their product line and was pretty impressed. They offer a few sizes of filtration system and this nifty attachment filter that turns two 5-gallon buckets into a high-volume water purification system. In our situation it seems more practical to keep something like that on hand than to do a quarterly rotation of dozens of plastic water containers stashed all over the garage.
Another neighbor has a pair of buddy heaters, which I hadn’t heard of before the meeting. They are like space heaters, but they generate radiant heat and run on propane. These seem like they would be a good option for winter power outages, assuming you also keep enough propane on hand.
I brought a bunch of checklists from the SNAP (Seattle Neighborhoods Actively Prepare) website recommended to me by The Crunchy Chicken who hosted her own neighborhood preparedness party just a few days ago.
I came away feeling pretty impressed by my little community. I think we would really find a wealth of tools and skills to draw from, right on our own block, should an emergency happen.
We’ll be meeting again in a few months. In the meantime, my personal preparedness checklist includes:
- Save for a water filtration system
- Add to non-perishable food storage
- Find flashlights – I know we have them, but they tend to wander - and check battery supply
- Continue to garden and develop chicken-keeping (I consider my garden a large part of my emergency preparedness)
- Research more community-based readiness activities to do with neighborhood
- Research veracity of Triangle of Life recommendations vs Red Cross recommendations for what actions to take in an earthquake. Email neighborhood with conclusions.