We’re three-fourths of the way through our series on preparing to execute an emergency preparedness drill in your neighborhood. We hope you are taking this information to your neighbors and encouraging them to be prepared, too.
The adjacent article talks about using radios in an emergency, but the best way to know how to use your radios is to do just that – Use it.
My neighborhood conducts a weekly radio check, which lasts only a couple of minutes, but serves as an opportunity for neighbors to practice using their radios, so in a disaster, they don’t have to try and learn.
Every Sunday at 8:30 p.m. on channel 8, subchannel 1, our communication specialists welcomes everyone to the call and invites them to check in by stating their name.
Once everyone has checked in (which is usually 3-7 people), we open it up for conversation about any topic on preparedness.
These scheduled radio checks keep radios charged and used, so in an emergency, my neighborhood understands how to use them, which gives me a lot of peace of mind. Jason M. Carlton
Did you play with walkie-talkies as a child? Did you ever think that one day you would be using them as a means of communicating in a disaster? Well, if phone lines and cell towers are damaged in an emergency, a set of Family Radio Service (FRS) devices can help your neighborhood mobilize and communicate faster than boys on bikes.
In order for this tool to work most effectively, members of your neighborhood would need to have, and know how to use, FRS radios. Here are two things to consider when selecting the one that’s right for you:
1. The longer the range on your radio, the better you will be able to communicate throughout your neighborhood. FRS radios are line-of-sight transmissions. So if you have a lot of houses and trees between you and the person on the other end, communication may be difficult. For example, a radio that boasts 32 miles, may only provide two-miles in a populated neighborhood.
2. Many radios come with non-removable, rechargeable packs. These can wear out over time. The recommendation is to go with a radio that can also have this rechargeable pack replaced with AA batteries, which may help strengthen the signal when needed.
3. FRS radios contain channels, as well as subchannels. Make sure your radio has subchannel capabilities; otherwise you may be able to hear your neighbors, but not have the ability to communicate back to them.
These radios offer multiple channels that can be used in an emergency, so if your neighborhood needs to communicate, you must coordinate a channel on which all communication will take place. For example, your neighborhood can plan to communicate on channel 8, subchannel 1, while the neighborhood adjacent to yours can take channel 9, subchannel 1.
Another best practice is to designate a communications specialist for your neighborhood who can direct all radio traffic. This person will keep things orderly when crisis strikes and help those seeking to identify families’ needs obtain the information vital to responding.
October, 2011 Every Needful Thing Jason M. Carlton
The actual execution of the drill is a powerful way to identify just how ready you and your neighbors are. Taking into account the previous three items discussed in this newsletter (organizing block captains, color codes of emergencies, and radio communication), here are the final elements to carrying out a successful drill.
PICK A DATE & TIME
The drill works best on a Saturday morning, between the hours of 7 a.m. and 10 a.m. Select a Saturday that will work best for your neighbors by taking into account school events, or sports games. Plan for the event four weeks in advance, so you have time to coordinate with block captains and other participants.
DESIGNATE DAMAGED HOUSES & INJURIES
Using the color codes, assign 15-20 yellow and red cards to random houses throughout your designated area. Write something on the card explaining the situation.
If you have difficulties identifying homeowners to participate, ask them if you can simply attach the card to an exterior portion of the house, and the participating block captain can simply read the card, rather than knocking and interrupting the homeowner.
SELECT THE RADIO CHANNEL
If you haven’t already designated a FRS channel for your radio, pick the one you plan to use for the drill, and communicate that to participating block captains.
At the designated start time, announce over the radio that the drill has begun. Block captains will proceed to check their designated homes and report back to the Coordination Center.
The coordinator will keep a list of the damage and injuries reported by the block captains.
If you have CERT teams in your neighborhood, they can discuss how they would address each of the injuries. If some areas are missing block captains, the coordinator will need to direct block captains who have completed their own sweep to survey other blocks, too.
Once everything has been reported, get everyone together and debrief the event. This is where you will learn the most, and can implement any best practices into your next drill.
November, 2011 Every Needful Thing Jason M.Carlton
In my role as an emergency preparedness coordinator for my neighborhood, I have had the opportunity to plan and execute a few neighborhood communication drills. The lead article is the first in a series of articles related to organizing a neighborhood in such a way that a full-scale emergency drill can be executed.
In each of the neighborhood exercises I have been a part of, I have learned something that helps me to refine my own neighborhood’s communication plan.
Here is a list of the articles that you will read in upcoming issues:
1. Organizing blocks & captains
2. Color-codes of emergencies
3. FRS radio protocol
4. Executing the drill
By the end of 2011, we hope to provide you with the information necessary to better organize your neighborhoods so you can test this organization through a communication drill and customize it to better prepare your neighbors and friends for anything that may come your way.
Jason M. Carlton
How often do you see a news story about a disaster that occurred and sent the city into panic and disorganization? Having a practiced and refined emergency preparedness plan in place can help reduce the panic in your own neighborhood.
It would be naive to say that in an actual emergency, your plan will go exactly as planned and practiced – every disaster may warrant different circumstances. But if the residents feel confident that a plan is in place, and has been practiced before, the level of panic will remain much lower.
If you fail to plan, then you plan to fail. Don’t let this be your neighborhood.
STEP 1: Identify a block captain
Block captains are volunteers assigned to a designated collection of houses and who help gather the information necessary to identify and address the needs of that given neighborhood.
Ideally, the block captain should be able to stand in front of their house and see the houses to which they have been assigned. In the corresponding graphic, a few examples of block organizations have been identified, with the block captain’s home identified in white.
STEP 2: Provide basic training
When asking a neighbor to “volunteer” to be a block captain, it is important to be able to provide them with an understanding of what their role is in an emergency.
Layton City (Utah) prepared a PowerPoint presentation for block captain training and has made it available on their Website. You can access the PDF file with this link:
Organization will be key. It may take some time to organize the block captains, and they may change as time goes by, but this is the first step in preparing your neighborhood for an emergency.