Personal Preparedness is critical for ensuring that your family can survive and thrive after a disaster. If your family is prepared with the basics when the electricity is out like food, water, lighting and the capability to cook and provide security, you are much more likely to comfortably survive until basic public services are restored.
But what if services are not restored for weeks or even months. Will your family be able to survive alone without the help of others? It is possible, but without help from others, your chances of survival will be very low. So that is why you need your community to be prepared along with you. In this post, Community Preparedness – Getting Started, I will discuss some initial steps in organizing a community preparedness group that can provide mutual assistance after disaster.
This is part 2 in a series on Community Preparedness. If you have yet to do so, please read part 1, Community Preparedness – Engaging our Neighbors for Mutual Survival.
First Step – Define what the Community Group is About
The more prepared you are initially, the more interest you will generate and the higher level of participation you will get. If you just put out a notice that you are setting up a meeting about preparedness with no details, you will likely have a low turnout. If people see that you have put some time and thought into it and provide some good information on what to expect at the first meeting and beyond, you will generate more interest.
Therefore I suggest creating four PDFs that can be emailed, uploaded to Google Docs or printed out that provide pertinent information on what you are doing:
- Community Group Mission
- Goals and Objectives
- Meeting Plans
- Informational Resources.
In the beginning the mission, goals and objectives and plans should be designated as drafts so that people know that they will be able to contribute to them
Community Group Mission
This document should define what the purpose of the group is, how it is organized and how people will benefit from being part of it. This is a brief document of a page or two.
Goals and Objectives
Create a document that defines the goals and objectives for your community preparedness group. This lays out the vision for what you want the group to accomplish and defines milestones for achievement. This can give people a very good idea of what to look forward to and helps them envision being part of the effort.
Create a plan for the initial meetings and the agenda for what you want to accomplish. The first meeting or two certainly need some details but the following meetings can be high level stating what the goal or educational presentation will be. More information on this topic will be in the next post in this series.
There is a ton of information on the internet and in books and magazines that help people to learn about preparedness. You can provide
- Links to information by FEMA and the Red Cross
- Some of your favorite blogs about preparedness
- Introductory checklists.
These resources should be positive, introductory information that gives them some grounding and that would stimulate their interest.
It shouldn’t be doom and gloom that could overwhelm them but it should convey a sense of urgency and understanding that the government can not help them in a long-term disaster.
The FEMA and Red Cross information is very limited and only addresses short term disasters but it does give a sense of credibility to people that may be new to preparedness.
An Example of Goals and their Objectives
Goals are the high-level things that you want to achieve and their objectives define how to accomplish them. The following examples would be a good start for defining your group’s goals and objectives.
Goal – Create a Community Preparedness Group that Works together to prepare for disasters and provide mutual assistance.
- Organize people to plan for the different potential disasters in your area
- Document skills sets and resources that the community already has
- Document deficiencies in skills and resources and create a plan to remedy
- Perform a SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats) Analysis for your area
- Define and form the teams needed for long term preparedness and resilience
Goal – Provide a Learning Path for People to be Prepared for a Long-term Disaster
Objectives – Educate people on
- The basics of family preparedness and why 3 days is not enough
- The importance of a Get Home Bag and how to build one
- What Long-term Food Storage is and how much they need
- What Water Filtration and Purification technics are and how to use them
- The importance of personal security and what it should entail
- Basic communications equipment and how they can be used
Goal – Create and Execute Plans that Provide Community Resilience for a Long-term Disaster
Objectives – Build the community’s capacity for
- Long Term Potable Water
- Growing and preserving food for the community
- Raising and harvesting animals for protein
- Providing heat for the winter months
- Providing security
- Handling basic and intermediate medical needs
- Alternative power sources for communications and medical equipment
- Working with other community groups
Getting Started with Finding People
Since preparedness is not mainstream yet, it is very possible that growing the group will be slow at first and it may take months before it catches on. It that happens then use that time to keep planning and organizing with the people that are showing up. The group will continue to learn and be better prepared for when people do start coming.
One of the best ways to get started is to attend your local CERT training if you have not already done so. You will get some good initial training and meet some of the people involved in your local emergency management office.
You may find that there already are people in your neighborhood that are involved in the CERT program and they may be considering a community group. Click here to learn more about the CERT Program.
Create an email stating that you are forming a preparedness group for your neighborhood and ask them to reply if they are interested. Send the email to the local CERT manager and ask them to forward the email to CERT members in your community if you do not have access to the email list. You can attach your documents or provide the URL to Google Docs folder.
Direct Contact with Your Neighbors
Organize your community documentation into a folder and go knock on a few doors. Introduce yourself and explain at a high level what you are trying to do with the community group. Ask them to review the materials and get back to you if they are interested.
Alternatively, you could upload your documents onto Google Docs folder and create a flyer with the URL to the documents.
Other Avenues for Reaching Out
- If there is an HOA, see if they are willing to get the word out.
- Put up fliers on local store bulletin boards.
- Put fliers in the extra slot on mailboxes (not in the mailbox itself or set inside of the storm door.
- Place an announcement in the local community newspaper.
There are likely several potential places near your neighborhood that can be used to hold your meeting for free or with minimal costs such as:
- Local Library
- Civic Group Meeting Halls
- Restaurants with separate meeting rooms
- Pavilions in Parks
If you cannot find a free place then you will have to incur the costs for a couple of meetings. As people start getting on board they will be able help.
With the current Covid-19 Pandemic we are experiencing, make sure you can provide ample space for social distancing if necessary. So be aware of any mandates on the number of people that can gather and whether masks are required.
Another option, especially with the current pandemic, is to hold the meeting via a video conference tool such as Zoom or Skype. An online meeting can present some difficulties and some tools have a limit on the number of people or duration without a paid subscription but it may be an option. A lot of people are working from home so doing this type of a meeting, therefore it will not be new to a lot of people.
- Think about providing some simple refreshments and snacks like water bottles and cookies. It doesn’t have to be fancy but food can go a long way with helping people feel comfortable.
- You may want to provide name tags to help people get to know each other.
- Ensure all seats are facing the speaker.
- Depending on the room, size and number of people, determine whether you will need a projector. Some places like libraries may already have them.
- Think about providing a drawing for a personal water filter or a preparedness book for those in attendance for example.
- If possible, video record your meeting presentation so that you can share with people who don’t show up. Keep operational security in mind so that you don’t record people giving personal information or long-term plans for food production or security.
The First Meeting
The first meeting should be high level to discuss why you are forming the group and the things that would like to accomplish.
- Quick introductions from everyone to understand their interests, why they are here, where they are in preparedness.
- Review the Overview, Goals and Objectives and Meeting Plans and see if anyone has any questions or suggestions.
- Ask people if they think any of their neighbors would be interested and get them to engage.
- Ask for ideas of things that people are concerned about and things they would like to learn such as food storage . See if any of the attendees would want to give a presentation on something they know how to do.
- Get people to sign up with their email and phone number for further communications and meeting announcements.
- Schedule the next meeting.
Getting off to a good start with forming your community group is very important. Therefore take the time to prepare by creating the documents described in this article and organizing a good meeting.
If you have any comments on getting started with a community group please feel free to share in the comments! Thanks and have a blessed day.
Please also see the other posts in this series:
- Community Preparedness – Engaging our Neighbors for Mutual Survival
- Community Preparedness – 24 Meeting Ideas to Engage Your Neighbors
- Community Preparedness – Analysis and Documentation
- Community Preparedness – Structuring your Group
- Community Preparedness – Planning is the Key to Success
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