Whether you just moved into your neighborhood a week ago or you’ve lived there for 25 years, getting to know your neighbors has always been an important part of a functioning society. It can also be helpful in a crisis, because after a disaster occurs, the people in closest proximity to you – and the people who will be able to help you most immediately – are your neighbors.
They may need your help as well. Research reported by FEMA says that people often are not as prepared for disasters as they think they are. Forty percent of survey respondents said they did not have household plans in the event of an emergency, and nearly 60 percent did not know their community’s evacuation routes. Almost 20 percent of responders said they had a functional disability that would affect their ability to respond during a disaster, but only 25 percent of those people have made arrangements to or alerted others to their disability in case of an event. In a different survey, 46 percent of people said they expect to rely on people in their neighborhood for assistance in the first 72 hours after a disaster.
There are several ways to find out what you can do to help. If you live in an area that is known for disaster events or has had them recently, it can be as simple as asking them how they dealt with any previous incidents. Their feedback can teach you what precautions are the most effective for the situation.
You can also organize your neighbors with the help of local service groups such as Citizen Corps Councils, Neighborhood Watch teams, Community Emergency Response Teams (CERT), as well as local fire and police departments and emergency management agencies. Their input can help you figure out your neighborhood’s biggest needs.
FEMA also recommends hosting meetings with family, friends and neighbors to plan service projects, set service goals, and learn about existing local emergency response plans. Community-based organizations often lack the capacity to manage large numbers of volunteers, so they need individuals to organize themselves and work alongside them.
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