Being Neighborly Isn’t Just Nice – It Could Be the Key to Survival in an Emergency
September 7, 2012 - Los Angeles County Department of Public Health Urges Residents to Get to Know Your Neighbors and Prepare Together for Next Emergency or Disaster
“I never thought it would happen here.” Words of shock and disbelief like these are recorded time and again by news crews surveying the latest community struck by an emergency or disaster.
“I never thought it would happen here.”
The reality is, however, life-threatening emergencies – whether natural disasters such as earthquakes, fires, floods or high-wind storms or manmade devastation – can happen anywhere, anytime.
While September is National Emergency Preparedness Month, its “be prepared” message is something Los Angeles residents need to keep in mind “24/7/365.” Having a fully stocked emergency preparedness kit is a must – but it’s just the beginning.
According to Dr. Alonzo Plough, Ph.D., M.P.H., Director of Emergency Preparedness and Response for the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health, an emerging model of emergency preparation is community resilience. “Simply put, it’s getting to know your neighbors and developing a community plan well in advance of a disaster. We’ve learned from past experiences here and elsewhere that in a disaster, neighbors – often the true first responders – can be the key to survival,” Plough said.
“The reality is, the greater the crisis the less likely professional emergency responders such as firefighters, utilities and healthcare providers will be able to reach everyone in need. Overwhelming demand for their services combined with possible damage to their own homes, workplaces and infrastructure like roads and overpasses may keep help at bay for the first few hours or even days.
“So we’re emphasizing that everyone needs to connect with their neighbors now, get to know them and find out who is most vulnerable,” Plough continued, adding that being educated in the proper emergency response procedures and working together to help each other will result in fewer serious injuries, less loss of life and reduced property damage. “It all begins with getting connected,” he asserted.
The first step is for neighbors to get acquainted on a first-name basis. Exchange contact information and organize a neighborhood meeting to create an emergency plan. Ensure that each household has a copy of the plan along with a survival kit.
Include an inventory of neighbors in the plan. Identify who needs extra care – the frail and elderly, anyone with disabilities or medical needs, families with young children and pets or non-English speakers. Also, note each person’s special skills and resources. Knowing a nurse, plumber, electrician or “ham” radio operator on the block can be very helpful in an emergency.
Neighborhood plans further should spell out how to find each other and how to communicate during different kinds of emergencies; establish a procedure to determine the status of each neighbor; name two places to meet: one right outside your home and another outside your neighborhood, such as a library, community center or place of worship; and assure everyone knows the address and phone number of the second meeting place. In addition, make sure each residence has a neighborhood map and encourage everyone to practice all possible evacuation routes from their homes and the neighborhood.
“It’s also crucial to stay informed and follow instructions from local officials,” Plough added. “We highly recommend that everyone sign up now to receive email alerts from the County and connect with resources in your own communities.
“By all means, we still want people to have emergency preparedness kits in their homes and cars. We want people to make plans to keep their families safe. But we also want to add to this the awareness that it’s not just about ‘me’ – it’s ‘we’ that helps us survive a disaster,” Plough concluded.
Learn more at http://prepare2respond.org/.
About the Department of Public HealthThe Department of Public Health is committed to protecting and improving the health of the nearly 10 million residents of Los Angeles County. Through a variety of programs, community partnerships and services, Public Health oversees environmental health, disease control, and community and family health. Public Health comprises more than 4,000 employees and has an annual budget exceeding $750 million. To learn more about Public Health and the work we do, please visit http://www.publichealth.lacounty.gov, visit our YouTube channel at http://www.youtube.com/lapublichealth, or follow us on Twitter: LAPublicHealth.