By Cate Shockey
The common belief is that in an emergency, the first people to respond will be the police, fire, and EMS crews. However, in a widespread disaster, first responders may be overwhelmed. It will be up to you and your community to work together, endure the situation, and return to some sense of normalcy.
Trying to “get involved” this month proved harder than I thought. After continually missing chances to get trained in First Aid/CPR and waiting for the Red Cross background check, I went with the simple approach. I met my neighbors.
The apartment complex that I live in is rather large, and people co-exist without really knowing each other. I recognize Family with Baby, Man with Yappy Dog, Nice Old People, and Girl in Scrubs… but I’ve rarely said more than hello and commented about the weather.
This month, I knocked on doors. In an emergency, isolated people are more vulnerable. They are less likely to follow emergency instructions or know who to ask for help. Because I didn’t know my neighbors, even I was vulnerable. Now we have a building of people who know each other and are able to look out for each other in an emergency.
Getting to know your neighbors is just the first step. There are plenty of things you can do to get involved and make your community stronger.
- Start a neighborhood watch. This will connect you with your neighbors and strengthen the ability of your community to look out for each other.
- Volunteer! There are so many options for volunteering in your community. You can contact your local police and fire departments, the American Red Cross, the Salvation Army, or other local disaster response groups. Contact Citizens Corps, a Department of Homeland Security program that engages volunteers to support first responders, disaster relief groups, and community safety organizations to assist in the recovery after a disaster. The Medical Reserve Corps (MRC) is also a great place to volunteer. MRC is a community-based unit that organizes local volunteers who want to donate their time and expertise to preparing for and responding to emergencies and promoting healthy living throughout the year.
- Take the Red Cross CPR and First Aid training.
- Give blood.
- Teach others to be prepared and be an advocate for preparedness in your community. FEMA has great Are You Ready Guides to help you get started.
- Check out Do 1 Thing for more tips and information, and get involved! Are YOU ready?