I had to chuckle when I saw it. Impatiently stuck in a line of cars waiting to get through road construction going down Madison Street, I glanced over the signage on the large van in front of me. It advertised a range of “personal services”— everything from picking up dry cleaning and children to decluttering and preparing earthquake kits.
The chuckle came because, with all our persistent efforts to get neighbors engaged in preparing for emergencies, our little Madison Park volunteer group had never considered recommending the hiring of a “personal services” business to get the job done.
Well then, why not? If you are a person of means, but with little time or inclination to get your household prepared to survive a major earthquake, perhaps you could hire a home organizer or personal services assistant to get the job done.
My answer to “why not” offers another question: What else? Getting some personal survival supplies in place is an essential component of getting through a disaster, and this requires some advance planning and organizing. But equally important in the preparation arena is having conversations and scenarios to consider with your household, family and neighbors. Beyond getting the stuff in place, do you have a sense of who your immediate neighbors are and how you might be helpful to each other? Who might have some specific skills, experience or needs in case of emergency?
Host a block social
A shared project is usually a good way to get to know someone. Perhaps you already know your immediate neighbors, but you might widen the circle a bit by suggesting a shared project of helping each other learn a few basic skills should we have a disruptive earthquake or natural disaster. The Seattle Office of Emergency Management has some handy 2-minute skills videos to help you. Go to https://www.seattle.gov/emergency-management/training#onlinecourses and scroll down to find these online resources on earthquake basics:
When and how to shut off gas and water valves
How to use a fire extinguisher
Could you offer your home and a beverage to several of your neighbors and watch these videos together? By doing this, you might learn who has tools, skills or experience that might be useful; who might have mobility or medical concerns; what pets might need attention; or which neighbor’s house might be a good gathering place post-disaster.
Some neighbors might be further along in preparing kits and have smart tips to offer or help problem solve a challenge. For example, it’s helpful to get other’s opinion on where the heck you should store your emergency supplies. It’s not the same for everyone. You can identify storage places for everything, ones likely to stay dry and secure for the long run but still accessible after major shaking.
What do you include in the way of food, supplies to stay dry and warm and systems to manage your waste without water to flush your toilet? Again, the OEM website, https://www.seattle.gov/emergency-management/prepare/prepare-yourself, offers plenty of guidance, but making use of these resources sometimes requires the nudge of a buddy. I learned from a neighbor where to purchase and how to best store 2.5-gallon containers of distilled water and to include an eyedropper and small bottle of bleach labeled with the number of drops to purify the entire container before drinking.
A neighbor who settled here from California offered an idea that wouldn’t have occurred to me — stash sturdy shoes under my bed, tied to the post by their laces so they would be easy to find should broken glass surround my bed when I need to make a “middle of the night” evacuation. Another friend told me how she organized a creative “show-and-tell” night for people on her block to bring the most clever item they’ve included in their emergency kit. Ideas were sparked and so were neighborly relationships.
Making connections beyond your block
You can contact your local Madison Park Neighborhood Emergency Preparation Team to find out what we’re doing and how you might get involved. Watch for announcements of our summer drill to activate our emergency communication hub, and join us in practicing how to help our neighborhood get through whatever disaster might next be on the horizon.
Sarah Armstrong, firstname.lastname@example.org
Mary Beth McAteer, email@example.com
Margie Carter, firstname.lastname@example.org