How to Organize a Neighborhood Emergency Group
You likely wouldn’t be human if you didn’t enjoy the creature comforts of modern life. Air conditioning and heating, indoor plumbing, grocery stores, vehicles…not to mention flat screen televisions, music playlists and the internet!
But these are luxuries, and the wise among us never let themselves forget it. Because in the moment the power goes out, so much of what we take for granted simply goes away. After power, plumbing is typically the next to go, followed by potable water and perishable food stores.
This is when the neighbors you’ve been grumbling about and glaring at become your new best friends. Who cares about loud music or barking dogs when you are all without power, water and food? You have to come together, pool your resources and protect each other to make it through safely. In these disaster situations, an organized, prepared neighborhood emergency group is a handy source of help indeed!
In this article, learn the steps to take to organize an emergency preparedness group for your neighbhorhood.
First Things First: Don’t Introduce Yourself as a “Prepper”
Being involved with other survival-minded people is a great and admirable endeavor, not to mention a wise use of your time. But not everyone wants to or is willing to think or plan that far ahead.
And for the purposes of organizing a neighborhood emergency group, there is no urgent need to go into detail about your reasons for wanting to start such a group. It is enough to cite recent catastrophic weather events happening around the globe and the need to put a community plan in place to ensure everyone knows the basic steps to take if the next weather disaster targets your community.
Next, Set an Initial Meeting Date and Agenda
With the hectic schedules people are coping with today, it is understandable that many people won’t want to commit to participating in something if they don’t know anything about it.
So before you start promoting the group, it is always a good idea to set an initial meeting date and an initial agenda. Then you can share this around to give people something tangible to put on their calendars. Encourage families to bring their kids so adults won’t have to find a babysitter in order to attend.
If your home is roomy enough, you may want to have the meeting there. But the safest and roomiest option is typically to find a willing host such as a local library’s or community center’s public meeting room.
Publicize a basic agenda, recognizing that you will most likely need to be willing to take the lead and simply invite brainstorming from attendees. First of all, you probably know a lot more about survival than your neighbors do and you can also see a bigger picture of how the group could be useful than your neighbors presently can.
But the group members may have resources you don’t have and valuable tips and supplies to offer as well as the ability to support and be supported during a disaster.
So in your initial agenda, you want to keep it simple, stating that you will discuss the steps each household can take to prepare in advance of the next weather crisis and brainstorm helpful community resources as well (or whatever feels right to you).
Now It Is Time to Recruit Participants from Your Community
As you start publicizing the initial meeting date and agenda, be sure to ask for RVSPs! Also be sure to post a start AND end time to the meeting so people will know how much time they need to commit.
If you have a neighborhood email list group or private website, this is a great tool to use when inviting your neighbors to join your new group. Posting flyers at local hotspots (grocery stores, coffeeshops, libraries and schools are all good places) can build awareness. Ask local community influencers (for example, your neighbor who seems to know everyone in the neighborhood) to put the word out.
Before long you should be generating interest and RSVPs and you can start preparing any handouts or materials you want to share with attendees. In service to weather preparedness topics in particular, you may want to use some of the training materials found onFEMA’s CERT (Community Emergency Response Team) websiteor even take thefree interactive online courseyourself to prepare to lead your community’s own emergency group.
The FEMA course includes six modules: CERT basics, fire safety, search and rescue, hazardous materials, terrorist incidents and disaster medical operations. You may also want to propose to your new group that one or more members take the official certification course by completing the CERT Basic Training.
Be Prepared to Introduce Topics for Future Group Meetings
One of the biggest downfalls for community emergency groups is that the members tend to become disconnected once again after the group’s initial planning sessions. The only way a local emergency group will work well is if everyone keeps in touch regularly and comes together periodically to refresh what they know and can do in the event of an emergency.
So at the first meeting, be prepared to outline a meeting schedule, perhaps every two months at first and then every quarter thereafter. Also have your contact information handy so attendees can invite their friends and neighbors to attend future meetings and get involved.
The first meeting should also offer a valuable take-away so attendees want to return to learn more. This is a great time to introduce the concept of a personal disaster kit that each family can begin to build for themselves. You can introduce them to some of your favorite resources, includingsurvival food, water purification, basic first aid, emergency shelters and more.
By emphasizing that it doesn’t have to cost a lot to create an emergency disaster preparedness kit and that it is a great project families can work on together, you can set a positive tone that encourages everyone to get started. You may also want to brainstorm a “wish list” of other community supplies that may be needed or desirable and see if any of the attendees own those items or know a way to get them.
Be Sure to Follow Up With Your Initial Group Attendees
As the group’s leader, you have gone out on a limb to reach out to your neighbors and begin putting together an emergency group that will benefit the whole community. This is a brave and admirable action and you should be very proud of yourself!
But you should also be open to receiving feedback (which will hopefully be offered in a very positive and constructive form) to making the group stronger and better. This is why it is important to reach out to the attendees at that first meeting and invite their feedback. Ask them for their ideas and invite them to bring a friend to the next meeting. Ask them how to make the next meeting more useful.
By providing the structure and leadership to launch your neighborhood emergency group, you leverage what each person has to offer to help you all if disaster strikes.