Have you ever wondered what you would do if disaster strikes (earthquake, tsunami, tornado, etc.)? The Washington Emergency Management Division has developed a Map Your Neighborhood program to help neighborhoods prepare for such emergencies.
We held our Map Your Neighborhood meeting the other day and it was amazing. Everyone was happy to be there, grateful for the chance to meet all the neighbors and eager to get to work. We live out in a rural area, so disaster isn’t some remote future possibility for us. It’s a very present reality. Every winter we deal with some kind of emergency. It was great to get together and see how we can help each other more effectively.
So what did I learn?
Going to each house and inviting people personally made a big difference. We see each other on the road, but it was really great to actually meet everyone in person.
We had food. There’s nothing like a potluck to bring people together—everyone contributes and everyone feels a part of things. Besides, food is an excellent way to break the ice.
We held the meeting in the late afternoon on a Sunday. It was perfect. People had finished what they wanted to do for the weekend and it wasn’t too late for a “school night.” We didn’t feel rushed—there was plenty of time to visit and get the work done too.
We started with the potluck, which gave people plenty of time to gather and mingle. The Map Your Neighborhood folks have done a beautiful job of preparing the materials. Everything was clear and easy to follow.
We did need to make some adjustments because we live in a rural area. So we divided our neighborhood into clusters of houses that are within easy walking distance of each other. Each group then chose a contact person and a meeting place. When disaster strikes, we’ll each secure our own home, then meet at the meeting place to see if we need to check on anyone.
The meeting also gave us a chance to talk about some non-emergency issues. This winter was particularly hard, causing extensive damage to the road surface. So we discussed what we can do as a neighborhood to get it repaired. We also created a communication system so we can more easily handle whatever situations arise.
There’s a tremendous power in coming together as a neighborhood. When you have 25 families with a desire and a willingness to work together, you can accomplish a lot and have fun doing it. The energy and enthusiasm created such a happy buzz in that room! It was great just to be a part of it. I’m looking forward to seeing what we create together.