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it's a beautiful day in the neighborhood

We seriously live in the best neighborhood in the universe.

Just got back a little while ago from the neighborhood emergency planning meeting (also the monthly neighborhood potluck). Neighbors got together at the main gathering spot on our street* this evening for a presentation from a local emergency preparedness expert (also a neighbor). His presentation was all about why it's practical to be prepared, but he also gave us tremendous information about easy measures we can take and available resources we can use. (Tip: a lot of the materials we received tonight, which really are super informative, were apparently made available via Homeland Security funding. Which means it's likely that a lot of other communities have similiar departments and resources to offer.)

*[Two of our neighbors have built a wonderful community space on the lower part of their property. On the far end, there's a fire pit with earthen seats all the way around, and an astounding view of the bridge, river, and Forest Park. There's a covered stage for neighborhood concerts (we have lots of talented musicians) and lots of room either for seating or dancing or both. And there's an ingenious outdoor kitchen that makes hosting the neighborhood potlucks easy, but also makes it possible to have monthly "classes", where everyone learns the fine arts of food preparation and preservation. Pickling, fermenting, brewing, canning...Sal's even on deck to teach everyone how to make rustic breads.]

The idea isn't to be scared or paranoid, but to make smart, reasonable preparations for all kinds of emergencies. Not just the big stuff, like earthquakes, but also more frequent, less catastrophic things like extended power outages. Practical ideas, like stocking an emergency kit for home and car, learning how to turn off utilities to prevent gas leaks and fires, and alternative communications when cell phones and computers (or electricity, period) aren't working. (Tip: cell phones will almost always go down in an emergency to leave the lines open for emergency personnel communications, but texting will usually still be available. The City of Portland has a really cool site at www.publicalerts.org where you can put in your info and be notified via the method of your choice if there's an emergency in your area.)

Our neighborhood plans for this to be the first in a series. The first goal is for each of our households to do the things we need to prepare. Once we've started working on that, our next goal will be how our neighborhood can be a self-sufficient community in the event of emergency or disaster. Building an "asset map" (what skills and resources are available in our neighborhood, which is useful even when there's not an emergency); designating responsibilities (people to go around to each house to make sure gas valves are turned off, for example, in the event of an earthquake to prevent secondary fires, or people who will check on elderly or disabled neighbors); basic first-aid and triage education (so we can start caring for each other in the event emergency personnel are too overwhelmed or unable to reach us right away); central meeting places (to do head counts and situation reassessment, and for allocating resources).

After that, we'll be moving on to expanding the idea further into our community, so other neighborhoods in the area can do what we're doing and provide support to each other in times of need. Because (as I learned tonight) there are 300 police officers and 160 firefighters and 22 ambulance crews for the entire city of Portland, a population of 500,000 people. In the event of a city- or region-wide emergency, they'll be doing the heroic work, but the very best thing _we_ can do for ourselves and for them is to take care of each other. (The presentation materials we received tonight advised that we should plan to be on our own for the first 72 hours, so to have plans in place that could take care of everything through that time, if not longer.)

I just love our neighborhood so much! We are a community of progressives and activists and naturalists and urban farmers and dreamers and artists and craftspeople and teachers. We are rich in talents and skills and knowledge and education and passion. We all love our little corner of the world, and we are building a village together.

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Reader Comments (2)

It is so awesome that you are in this type of community! It sounds so nurturing and supportive and thoughtful. I have done some of this for our home (I call it my "Jericho" plan) but now I'm motivated to do more! I recently got some info from a training I went to about how social workers can be of service in crisis situations. I haven't had a chance to check into the websites yet, but I'm now wondering if they're similiar to the ones you mentioned....

Oct 5, 2011 at 8:50 AM | Unregistered CommenterTammy

Hee -- "Jericho plan"...love it! Every time they replay that show on SyFy, I think of you.

Something about preparing for disaster is strangely reassuring. Those kinds of major events are all about turning people's lives upside down, and particularly for those of us who struggle with control issues (heh), that is an especially terrifying prospect. So I suspect having some measure of control, in the form of go kits and supply storage and community planning, is a way to exert what little control a person can have in a situation like that. I hope we never ever need to make use of the plans we're making, but I'm thankful that we'll be there for each other if we need to be.

I'd be interested to know more about the social working training you're contemplating. I'm guessing at least some of the websites we got info about probably are the same. I was pleased to see that the mental/psychological effects are given the amount of attention they are in the preparation presentation we received. Understand that this was just a preliminary presentation, but it was talked about quite a bit, and will be something we'll be focusing on just as much as the rest.

Given that, I'm sure that any training you might get on that subject will probably be invaluable in the event of an emergency. I mean, you and T obviously have a lot more preparation than the average Joe because of what you do, but still.

Oct 9, 2011 at 3:09 PM | Registered CommenterBitty

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