Neighbors Helping Neighbors in a Disaster

Aug 15, 2013 by

Neighbors Helping Neighbors in a Disaster

Disaster readiness and strong neighborhoods. If you can’t think how these two are related, there’s a picnic I want to invite you to…

Port Townsend’s geographic isolation has always called for self-reliance and neighbors helping neighbors. Since 2006, we’ve benefited from a farsighted “neighborhood preparedness” movement that has resulted in more than 140 neighborhoods planning how they will help each other in emergency scenarios.

A first-time event in Jefferson County this Sunday encourages more such community organizing and celebrates the interrelated assets of “emergency preparedness and community vitality” in the form of a “gathering of neighborhoods”—a.k.a. The First Annual All-County Picnic.



Co-sponsored by Local 20/20 (our Transition Initiative) and the county’s Department of Emergency Management, the picnic on Aug. 18 at H.J. Carroll Park aims to combine fun, food, frolic and info.

In addition to talks and booths on emergency preparedness, and a ceremony honoring our community’s first responders, organizers arranged for the Chimacum Farmers Market to relocate to the park, and free corn on the cob will be served at 1 p.m. There will also be pick-up soccer, frisbee and basketball games, plus kids’ activities and live music.

All in a bid to demystify the important steps of connecting with your neighbors in advance of a disaster, be it a winter power outage or an earthquake. Folks are encouraged to come with their neighbors (I sent the invitation to our community garden list!) and carpool.



Picnic organizer Danny Milholland compares investing in neighborhood emergency preparedness to purchasing insurance. “This is building a community insurance policy that we’re all contributing to and benefiting from if there is a disaster,” he told a Leader reporter.

Read the Leader’s 8/14/13 article: Get ready, get happy, get together

Jefferson County is actually one of the leaders in the state of Washington in this type of neighborhood grass roots organization for emergency preparedness. Local 20/20’s Emergency Preparedness Action Group website reminds us that:

 “We’ve all heard the call to prepare for emergencies. Preparing your neighborhood is vital! The YOYO acronym—You’re On Your Own—means that neighbors will likely be the first ones to offer you assistance. Neighbors who are prepared are more effective in their response to an emergency and have an increased capacity to be self-sufficient for the first 72 hours after a disaster.”



The picnic schedule, location, and sponsors can be found at

I will be attending the talk on organizing your neighborhood (at 11:30 a.m., repeats at 4 p.m.), since my neighborhood is in the very early stages of organizing—spurred on by our success in coming together to start a community garden.

And I hope to catch Heather Taracka’s talk at noon on how to involve children in emergency preparedness efforts. Heather maintains the website, which offers a free, self-paced online course to help guide your family, civic group, church or neighborhood “get emergency prepared.” Here’s a nice article from earlier this spring about her work:  Read article.

Heather’s tagline nests neatly within mine. “Getting emergency prepared” is one of the more practical win-wins of “going sustainable together.”

For more inspiration, see my 3/14/12 post called “Get to Know Your Neighbors,” as a first step toward engaging in sustainable solutions.

And see you at the picnic!