11 Oct 2011
October 11, 2011

Emergency Preparedness

Emergency Preparedness

The Burlingame Neighborhood Network program encourages citizens to work cooperatively in neighborhood teams to prepare for disasters. In the process of getting better acquainted, neighbors are inspired to plan other events such as block parties and holiday get-togethers. Their sense of community fosters a“Neighborhood Watch” awareness that helps prevent crime.

Why We Started

Did you know that there is a 99 percent chance that an earthquake with a magnitude of 6.7 or greater will occur in California within the next 30 years? Emergency responders warn us that, when the Big One comes, we’ll be on our own for three to seven days.

Instead of thinking of emergency preparedness as a giant task, why not try to do one small thing to prepare your family each month? That’s the approach that Neighborhood Networks take. Thanks to a grant, we have a series of colorful free flyers you can distribute in your neighborhoods to learn things like how to turn off your utilities, what precautions you should take to protect small children and how to ensure that you have a safe water supply during a disaster.

The city offers lots of free training to help you get prepared and free access to emergency and news alerts. Why not take advantage of these services? Chances are they’ll come in handy when you least expect it, such as when a family member has an accident or you’re stuck on 101 and are wondering how to find the fastest route home.

Background

The first Neighborhood Network group was established in 2006 in the Poppy Drive area of Burlingame. After an initial meeting, the group selected block captains to figure out how to prepare the neighborhood for potential disasters. They worked closely with the fire chief and disaster preparedness personnel to enhance the city and county emergency readiness programs already in place.

They asked each family to fill out a questionnaire listing contact information, skills useful during emergencies and supplies the family would make available to others during a disaster. The information was gathered into two directories. One contains information that families approved for distribution to other neighbors. This public directory was printed with contributions of $5 per family. The other directory includes private details that neighbors approved only for use by block captains and safety personnel during disasters. Block captains had to sign legal statements affirming that they would only use the information for that purpose. Both directories are only available as hard copies; they are not distributed via email, due to privacy concerns.

The Poppy Drive Neighborhood Network has initiated a number of other projects:

  • Families receive occasional e-newsletters; those without Internet access receive printed copies.
  • They receive flyers with emergency preparedness and crime prevention tips, distributed electronically and in printed form.
  • They are notified of free emergency training opportunities.
  • They are encouraged to sign up for free city alerts about emergencies, crimes and news.
  • They are invited to get informed and get involved in Burlingame activities.

Benefits

The Neighborhood Network has helped neighbors become better prepared for emergencies. Many have updated emergency kits and agreed upon family meeting places during disasters.

Block captains have access to detailed private information that they will share with safety personnel only during disasters:

  • Whom to contact in case of a disaster
  • Residents who need special assistance due to age or a disability
  • Skills that residents can offer during an emergency, such as medical or emergency training
  • Equipment that residents have offered to make available during emergencies
  • Residents have become more aware of who belongs in their neighborhood. A burglary at one house inspired them to start a neighborhood e-newsletter to alert one another about safety concerns. Neighbors have called police about suspicious strangers and door-to-door salespeople.
  • Neighbors now greet one another by name on the street and have participated in social events, including:
  • A block party with a bicycle parade for children, volleyball, basketball, old-fashioned sack races and other games
  • A holiday party with hot chocolate, caroling and a mountain of snow to play in
  • Election coffees to compare notes about candidates and issues
  • A summertime “Poppy Drive Camp” in which several families took turns taking children on excursions

The Neighborhood Network has fostered a sense of community that benefits everyone and, in particular, some residents living on their own. This community spirit – or social capital – is the fabric that makes societies stronger and able to withstand emergencies. It also makes it more fun to live in our community.