Margie Carter
Margie Carter

Goodness knows we’ve tried to be patient for summer weather to arrive, for that feeling of expansiveness that comes with sun stretching our days.

We’re tired of being so hesitant, so limited with our own company, so ready to focus on all things fun. And yet, there is still good reason to be cautious, still more big troubles likely on the horizon. I find it hard to stay motivated and focus on preparing for the next emergency, perhaps that devastating earthquake waiting in the wings, or more accurately under the sea, until those plates slip enough to throw our lives into utter chaos, this time without access to any of the resources on which we typically rely.

One thing I DO know: It’s much easier, and can even be a bit of fun, having a steady buddy with whom to do some of this preparation. We keep each other motivated, steady in moving through some of the basic be-ready tasks, more creative in storing essential supplies, better practiced in using emergency communications and protocols, ultimately better connected to others in the neighborhood on whom we’ll need to rely for mutual aid.

 

Attitudes, motivators and barriers to emergency preparedness

I read a rather technical, but interesting summary of a research survey exploring how American households view the public promotion campaigns to get prepared for likely, but unpredictable natural disasters such as pandemics, floods, hurricanes, tornados, fires, earthquakes or toxic releases. The authors say, “Most important, individuals and households that comprise communities must have knowledge, tools, and confidence to take appropriate action when needed. Despite our national investment and experience with disasters, American household preparedness has improved only modestly since 2003.”

Apart from the actual data they gathered, I found the summary of categories interesting for us to consider. As you read these typical responses, do you find any that might be yours? Can you imagine these findings spurring conversation in your household, with neighbors, organizations or social circles of which you are part?

Attitudes that help:

Knowing what to do in an emergency

Having the right emergency supplies

Being able to react to an unplanned event

Discussing plans in case of emergencies

Preventing harm to myself and family

Acting before an emergency occurs

Barriers to overcome:

Planning for the unknown is confusing

I can’t afford to buy supplies

I don’t think it is important where I live

I don’t know where to begin or what to do

Talking to my family about it is hard

Motivators:

Increased likelihood of a local disaster

Information about possible local disasters

Personal experience with a disaster

If I received a discount to buy basic supplies

Information about consequences (losses)

Nothing, I am already very prepared

When I reviewed these 3 lists, I immediately wanted to talk with my neighborhood emergency preparation buddies about how this survey might inform our work, improve our outreach and engage more of our neighbors. Concurrent with this research survey, despite all the evidence of the need for preparedness, our progress is more modest than we wish.

We are a small team and with even a few more folks could take some significant leaps in getting our wider Madison Park neighborhood better prepared to engage in mutual aid when a disaster seriously disrupts our lives.

I’m reminded of Malcolm Gladwell’s book, “The Tipping Point,” with his review of change theory and examples of how a critical mass for engagement is much smaller than we think to reach a healthy tipping point for rapid change to happen (estimates ranging from an initial 10 to 25 percent of the population). Gladwell’s influence led to a corporate marketing cult and strategies for a new political landscape, supercharged by social media.  Couldn’t we garner that 10 to 25 percent of our neighbors to accomplish some significant disaster preparedness that would put us in a stronger position to respond well to a disruptive disaster?

We don’t need to spend time focusing on convincing others that more trouble is in the wind. You can feel it in the airwaves. As Robin Wall Zimmerer, author, scientist, and professor, says, “We are in a time when we’re so hungry for hope.”

It really only takes one or two other people to join you to begin to lift the burden of getting more prepared, which in turn lifts your heart. With that combined energy, others will take heart and join in, too.

Around the city a remarkable new energy is taking shape for emergency communication hubs and other preparedness activities, with city-wide volunteers Cindi Barker and Ann Forest providing remarkable assistance, offering online and in-person skills sessions, resource tips and practice drills.

Who do you know who might join you in conversation, followed by some work together in your homes and wider neighborhood? Who might you coax to come with you to engage with an intrepid neighborhood team, walking our blocks for 20 minutes at 7:30 on Monday nights to gain more comfort in using emergency radio communications?

Consider joining us from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. July 30 at the Madison Park communication hub by the park’s tennis courts. We’ll spread out the communication emergency response supplies and practice setting up a series of stations where neighbors can offer and receive critical resources and information to each other during a disaster.

Come see what it looks like and how it operates — your life may depend on it one day.  

You can also visit https://www.seattle.gov/emergency-management for a wealth of information, resources and up-to-date trainings and events.

For other questions and ways to get involved with our Madison Park team, contact us:

• Sarah Armstrong: saraharmstrong215@gmail.com

• Mary Beth McAteer: msimiele1@gmail.com

• Margie Carter:  margiecarter@comcast.net