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Published February 21, 2022

Talk to Your Neighbors

Written by
Charlene Nelson
| The Dakotan

We’ve had a hard winter and some of us are feeling pretty battered by all the storms. Soon the government will be issuing its flood predictions for spring of 2022. Hopefully, the flood forecast will not be too dire. But no matter what’s on the horizon, now is a good time to talk to your neighbors about preparedness.

This is important!

Don’t wait. If there is a region-wide emergency, you can not do emergency preparedness by yourself. You might, maybe, be able to get through a small, very localized crisis without relying on neighbors or without neighbors needing your help. But if you experience any kind of major disaster in your neighborhood or your town, community cohesiveness is vital and this starts by talking to your neighbors.

It’s actually cool to be prepared

Talking to your neighbors does not make you a crazy person! The idea of preparedness has been in the news a lot lately. FEMA, Red Cross, and many other agencies have been encouraging people to be prepared to get through three days of a disaster, starting with a 72-hour kit. In Sweden, the government is telling its people to be ready to survive one week without any help from the government. A local government official said, “I think it’s important that you can manage yourself. Society has changed and is vulnerable and complex with many dependencies. It can easily be any disturbance, so we have to [be able to] manage [care for] ourselves.”

The first step to any disaster response is to ensure that you and your family are safe. But after that, you will want to turn your attention to your neighbors. This will be especially important if the crisis is a long-term or persistent one (such as a flood or long-term power outage.) Working cooperatively with your neighbors will ensure that everyone will fare better than if we work off the “every man for himself” model.

[Image: submitted by Charlene Nelson]

How to start

Chances are many of your neighbors have already been thinking about being prepared for a disaster. But no one wants to look like a crazy prepper, right? So no one talks to each other about it. So it’s time for you to break the ice.

Here are some questions you might ask to start the conversation:

  •  Have you done anything to personally prepare yourself and your family for a disaster?
  •  Have you thought about how natural or man-made disasters might impact our neighborhood?
  •  What do you think would happen if our town faced a long-term disaster or crisis?
  •  Do you think our neighbors are adequately prepared to deal with a long-term disaster or crisis?
  •  What do you think are the strengths of our neighborhood? Or individual neighbors?
  •  Which neighbors have special needs or physical limitations that we should be aware of?
  •  What do you think would be the most important thing we could do to help our neighborhood weather such a crisis?

Organize a neighborhood preparedness event

Once you’ve talked to neighbors about emergency preparedness, you’ve laid the groundwork for creating a neighborhood plan. Now it’s time for follow up. Work with your neighbors and together host an event such as:

  •  Creating a Neighborhood Readiness Response plan.
  •  Host a Map Your Neighborhood event.
  •  A Preparedness-themed block party. Invite local Red Cross, community emergency personnel, and your county or city preparedness specialist to talk to everyone about emergency readiness.
  •  Have a neighborhood disaster drill. With the help of emergency specialists from the community, practice with the neighbors so you all know how you will respond to a tornado, train derailment, or other disaster.
  •  Distribute a list of preparedness resources for neighbors, including your city or county Emergency Preparedness department, websites like Ready.gov and RedCross.org and articles in The Dakotan.

We all feel an obligation to help those in need, even more so during a disaster. Even if we had no moral duty to help others in need, simple pragmatism dictates it. Imagine if during a major power outage or catastrophic disaster, you and your family are the only ones with food and clean water. How do you think your neighbors will respond? How will you feel watching while others struggle with a disaster?

A widespread disaster affects us socially, economically, emotionally, spiritually and, of course, physically. For your family’s well-being, begin today talking about and encouraging your neighbors to be prepared for a disaster.

Neighborhood Readiness Took Kit: https://www.ready.gov/community-preparedness-toolkit
Map Your Neighborhood information and resources: https://bit.ly/Map_Your_Neighborhood
Email suggestions, questions or comments to: charlene.nelson@mydakotan.com
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