In the days immediately following a catastrophic earthquake in Los Angeles, you may have to be your own first responder. Are you equipped to help yourself, your family, your friends and neighbors? Do you know your neighbors’ names, their special needs? Have you met their children and pets?
The reality is that in the first few days after a major disaster, traditional first responders, our police, fire and emergency medical services, will be stretched to the brink or unable to respond due to poor communications and impassable roads.
Have you done the work to make yourself Red Cross Ready? Have you reached out in your community to make them response ready as well?
First Responders can be anyone, anywhere, anytime. They will most likely be your friends, family and neighbors during the next catastrophic event, when our needs outstrip our emergency resources. It will be up to us to support each other. First responders can be thought of as ordinary people, doing incredible things on difficult days and one day you may be called upon to be a first responder.
The Red Cross response formula is: Get a Kit, Make a Plan, Be Informed. To take that one step further – reach into your community and help your friends and neighbors do the same.
Community resilience is the ability of communities to withstand and recover from disasters and to learn from past disasters to strengthen future response and recovery efforts. Resilience requires participation from the whole community to improve response and recovery, and helps the community plan for the full length of disaster recovery.
Here are ten steps that will help you build a resilient community. Research has shown that social connections are one of the strongest resources in a disaster. Being neighborly is a great place to start your preparedness campaign.
Here are steps which can make your neighborhood Red Cross Ready:
1. Exchange information with your immediate neighbors. Make sure you are current with their names, contact information and know who resides in your immediate vicinity.
2. Make yourself aware of anyone within your community who has special needs. Is there someone who has access and functional needs and will require extra help? Are there elderly people who might also need additional assistance in a crisis? Extra supplies and resources may be required for these groups of people.
3. Make new friends while you are exercising your dog. You can reach out to people while you are walking your dog and interacting with owners. Pets are a part of the family, and everyone will want to make arrangements to keep their pets safe and well in the event of a disaster.
4. Organize holiday parties and get-togethers. This is a great venue for exchanging information that will become vital in the face of a disaster.
5. Share preparedness information with your neighbors and friends. If you are a Red Cross volunteer – bring your work and information home with you and share it with others. Visit www.PrepareSocal.org to find all kinds of preparedness resources.
6. Find out if you have a neighborhood association and join it or help start one if none exists yet. There are many social networks to support community information sharing like www.NextDoor.com
7. Use your faith-based community to help secure your neighborhood. Working with your place of worship to build preparedness resources, to organize blood drives and other community trainings is an important investment in safety. The Red Cross can help with classes and blood drives. Visit www.RedCrossla.org to get a list of class options.
8. Check in with administrators at your children’s school to discuss the school’s emergency plan and provisions for the students. Ask how you can support and spread the word.
9. Assess your neighbors to find out what people have individual skills that will be essential in the event of a crisis. Is one of your neighbors a nurse? A fireman? A police officer? Trained in CPR? Know the resources on your own block. Sign up to take a “Map Your Neighborhood” training offered for free by the Red Cross.
Upcoming dates/locations for 2014 Map Your Neighborhood Trainings
10. Complete an asset check of your neighborhood. Are there community centers nearby? Closest hospital or emergency clinic? You can visit www.readyla.org to find your nearest resources by zip code.
If all of this sounds like a lot of work, turn some of these preparedness activities into games. You and your children can organize a home “hazard hunt,” finding the potential hazards and safety spots in your own home. And, of course, work with your children to organize their own personal disaster kits, a pillow case loaded with vital supplies and comfort items. Visit redcross.org for lists of minimum disaster supplies for home, car and office.