Learning from neighbors

Margie Carter.

Margie Carter.

Most of us experience the tension of longing to relax and find some pleasure in our days and that nagging need to mobilize energy for the next thing on our list. It’s easy to postpone things that don’t seem essential, let alone don’t sound fun, like gathering supplies and skills for a possible big emergency, like a massively disruptive, damaging earthquake. How do we wrap our heads around this task and begin to take some steps?

With evidence from an abundance of scientific research and evidence around the globe, we know the not-too-distant future holds growing frequency of catastrophic events that will touch most people’s lives. The Pacific Northwest is ground zero for some of these predictions, and government agencies have been escalating preparation and crisis management systems, along with offering an impressive collection of educational materials for everyday citizens to use. What will motivate us to use these and step into action?

Our reconstituted Madison Park Volunteer Emergency Preparation group — the Madison Park Hub — has been steadily focusing on getting education, skills and systems in place for our wider neighborhood, including Madison Valley, to take advantage of. We all have busy lives and other commitments for our time, so we decided to ensure our involvement was accompanied by having an appreciation for each other, along with an infusion of fun and creativity in our work together. Doesn’t this sound like something you could spare some time for and might even find beneficial for yourself even as you contribute to our community?

I’ve been asking our growing group of folks what motivated them to get involved. Dana mentioned that, as a new empty-nester, she now had a bit of extra time. A neighbor friend, Frank, suggested that her computer, writing and consulting skills could help our emergency preparation group. Another neighbor, Romney, contacted our hub group saying she had limited time, but could easily post regular emergency prep tips on the Nextdoor app. You can sign up to see these tips by going to https://nextdoor.com/g/v4unw8uqi/ or search “Madison Park emergency preparedness group” on Nextdoor. Keep an eye out in Madison Park businesses for flyers Dana is creating as part of Romney’s “DID YOU KNOW” tips for emergency preparation and response.

Sarah got her home prepared and mentioned it from time to time to neighbors. They perked up at the topic and asked her to help them prepare their homes. That’s when she discovered that the city’s plan for responding to an earthquake included not only having residents prepare their own homes for survival, but recommending them to work with their immediate neighbors to provide shelter, first aid, search and rescue, etc., until municipal services returned – which could be weeks. So, Sarah and her neighbors started to organize by gathering the names and contact information of everyone on the block. Then they started coming together periodically to share home prep ideas. They organized home prep "Show and Tells" and asked neighbors to bring their best home prep hack to display and discuss. During COVID, they met on the sidewalk for Wednesday Wine Walks to keep their connections alive. One neighbor, Aya, described the entire process of coming together as neighbors to educate and inspire each other as a gratifying experience. She said, “I know we all feel better prepared for what might come one day. We’ve also learned a lot about our neighbors in both the skills they might have to offer in times of need and also those things they might need assistance with at some point.”

Sarah and Aya’s hillside group of neighbors used the city’s online tool kit for organizing your block, found under the Seattle Neighborhoods Actively Prepare section of the emergency management website, Seattle Neighborhoods Actively Prepare - Emergency Management | seattle.gov. As they got to know each other better, they divided into subgroups to work on how they might support each other during an earthquake. One family would house the injured, and those with healthcare experience would provide first aid; one family had extra space for shelter, and another group of neighbors agreed to help with search and rescue. Others donated money for supplies for the Madison Park Emergency Communication Hub box located near the park’s tennis courts. Aya worked beyond her block to help organize part of the emergency hub to create a simple system where Madison Park healthcare workers could help neighbors after a quake. She said, “I have a lot of confidence in our neighbors -- that if the time comes, we are ready to spring into action because we’ve discussed and rehearsed. It is, however, an evolving process. It will never be perfect enough, but with each iteration we improve upon the prior.” All these efforts made this block more prepared to withstand two weeks of rough living after a quake strikes. They also made their block a more welcoming place to live.

In another part of Madison Park, Ginny and Mary Pat, longtime residents of the Lakeshore West Condo, engaged with wider neighborhood preparation efforts. Mary Pat said, “Knowing the history of Seattle, it’s obvious we can expect a damaging earthquake, and I’ve been in a few of those in Alaska and Japan. I decided it would be useful for response efforts to get a GMRS radio and license to hear what’s going on around the city.” While modestly saying she is only “trying to do her part,” Ginny was the person other LSW residents said motivated them to get involved. Nancy, a renter in the building, said she couldn’t resist Ginny’s request to be a co-chair of emergency preparation for their condo. Together they recruited residents to serve as floor captains and built on a manual Ginny and Dave, the building manager, had earlier developed for all building residents. They convinced their board to invest in two small cabinets to hold supplies for the building.

To further build camaraderie, open houses were scheduled and handouts distributed on where people could buy items and a sign-up list created for people list skills they might offer during an emergency.

With momentum growing, their next consideration is a “movies and popcorn gathering” where they watch a series of short online videos on various emergency response skills to learn.

The notion of getting motivated by and learning from our neighbors is also seen in our Madison Park emergency team working with Madison Valley neighbors who have now acquired their own emergency hub box located at the FAME Community Center at 32nd and East Republican. Members will be hosting a Disaster Preparedness Skills Fair from noon-4 p.m. May 21 at FAME. One of their residents, Frank, recently invited our Madison Park team to a “show and tell” of his home emergency prep set up.

“I was initially motivated by my next-door neighbor Steve, who organizes our annual block parties,” Frank said. “He started our Madison Valley hub initiative. Steve feels that community preparedness is a natural outgrowth of fellowship. During a disaster, we’ll have to rely on each other within our own neighborhoods.”

On a Sunday afternoon we gathered in Frank’s driveway. We used a pre-made informal worksheet to note what he had included in the way of tools and supplies. Because each of our home settings and situations are different, the worksheet offered a way to discuss and note other possible options for recommended emergency supply essentials. The invitation to use phone cameras, and an eagerness to help each other address storage and budget dilemmas created a lively gathering with hopes of coming together again in the future.

Moving into the important arena of developing skills for emergencies, our next activity is to partner with the Parkshore Senior Living Community, where several resident doctors will work with Ann Forest, an experienced nurse instructor, for a Stop-the-Bleed workshop at 4:30 p.m. April 24 at at Parkshore. Because bleeding is the leading cause of preventable death after injury, we encourage all members of our community to attend. The event is free, but registration is requested"Stop The Bleed" class - April 24, 2023 — Signup Sheet | SignUp.com.