Reasons to Know Your Neighbors

June 14, 2017

How many of us actually know our neighbors?  Our fast paced lives don’t leave much room for small things like being neighborly.  We are also bent on maintaining our privacy which is understandable, but there is a case for knowing your neighbors which has a purpose we must understand and acknowledge.  Plain and simple, our chances of survival and recovery are greater after a catastrophic event if we have a pre-established network in place to help us survive and get through the disaster.

Disasters and threats come in many forms.  They may be natural , such as strong winds which can knock down trees that blocks roads and pull down power lines, severe storms or prolonged rain can cause flooding and mudslides which can be magnified in areas of recent drought or which have just had severe fires.  We are also all aware of what the scientists tell us in terms of earthquakes.  The “big one” is looming over us yet we are complacent as if it will never happen.  In California, we have become too comfortable with earthquakes especially those with small magnitudes.  Many times and possibly to our own demise, we don’t pay them any attention as if we have developed an immunity to them.

Also, we have acts of terrorism on our minds, such as the active shooter incidents happening all around us.  Or, acts of terrorism involving use of vehicles used to run pedestrians down at public “soft target” events. These acts are now prominently being perpetrated by a single individual and/or Homegrown Violent Extremists (HVE’s) as lone attackers (making them harder to detect and allowing them to commit acts of violence much easier to facilitate) and through decentralized planning, as our terrorist experts now tell us. Other threats include, the possibility of an attack on our power grids through an electromagnetic pulse (EMP) or by use of a cyber weapon. The technology exist which can cause a slow and painful long-term nightmare for our county if used as a weapon.  In the case of an EMP, we would not see immediate impacts but, not long after, we would start to witness tragedy on a mass scale for our most vulnerable populations in hospitals, nursing homes, and in young children.

Take a minute to imagine your life without power for one year.  What would you do without access to:

Cell phones; which we use to communicate with family and friends, follow news items of interest, facilitate our banking, store our precious photos, navigate us around our city with maps and all the other applications we are now dependent on. Refrigerator; which stores our food, not only for ourselves but for our children, pets and in some cases our medicine which we need to survive. Lights; which provides us general illumination after dark so that we can read, write and continue to function or work. Businesses; gas stations where we go to get gas to fill up our cars, markets where we buy food and banks which store our money. Hospitals; where we go for medical care, to give birth and for general medical attention that many need on a daily basis.  The list goes on and on.

The bottom line is, when an event does happen be it an act of terrorism or because of a natural disaster, how resilient will you and your family be?

If you think you can handle not having electricity for a year or having to survive entirely on your own with no support from anyone, over an extended period of time, then you truly are ready and I applaud you.  But, if you are like most Americans and think that the government or our overstretched first response agencies will come to your rescue then you must wake up now and take steps to help yourself get ready.  Because anyone who can do math can figure out that there are too few responders, (who will be busy taking care of their own families and then providing response in a coordinated manner based on direction from their jurisdictions) who may not be able to stop and find you so that they can care for you if everyone else in the area needs help.  And in the case of an EMP incident, they will not be able to provide to you any long-term solutions to your power loss.

Where do you start?  Here are three tips from this humble emergency manager:

Tip #1: Get to know your neighbors.  Your neighbors are your first responders.  Depending on the disaster, they may be the first ones to come to your rescue after they have taken care of their own families and if they are able.  You may need help if you are trapped in your home or need medical attention. In the event of a long-term power disruption you will need each other for survival.  No one will have all the skills and knowledge needed to survive.  Together as a team your chances are elevated. For example, you may know how to purify water but not grow food.  Your neighbor may.  Share this video:Knowing Your Neighbors 

Tip #2: Create your own sense of readiness.  You must have skills to survive.  Have an understanding of what it means to purify water, grow your own food, understand basic first aid and have the understanding of how to keep yourself healthy and sanitary if you do not have access to clean running water over a prolonged period of time.  How long could you stay in your home if you had no method or strategy of replenishing your food and water?  Can you prepare food without electricity or gas?  In the case of an active shooter, sign up to take an Active Shooter Training which is free in most jurisdictions provided by your local law enforcement agencies. Take Community Emergency Response Training (CERT) training usually offered by your local fire department.  What type of survival mindset can you fall back on?

Tip #3: Have a communication plan. Or, at least an idea of how you would communicate to your loved ones if you are separated and can’t find each other after the disaster.   People go to school, to work, shopping and sometime out of town.   We are not with our loved ones every minute of every day.  You must have a plan in place which helps you find each other after disasters.  Some general strategies include, use of two way radios or ham radios, use of out of town contacts, use of texting if cell phones work but calls are not going through or just having a meeting place pre-determined in all situations.

There are plenty of resources available which can help give you, your family and your beloved pets a fighting chance at survival.  Take personal responsibility today.  Get to know your neighbors, talk about survival, create your own sense of readiness and formulate your communication plans.  These are not the only steps to take but here is where you should start.  The feeling of being prepared and knowing that you, your family and your neighbors will be ready can be powerful and rewarding.

By: Mona Curry June 14, 2017

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