National Preparedness Month is an important chance for all of us to come together as families and communities to consider how we can better protect ourselves and others in the event of a sudden emergency. In observance of this month, we at SelectCare have dedicated all of our September blogs to different aspects of emergency preparation. This week, we look ways you can help your own community prepare for emergencies through volunteer work.
If there’s one silver lining to emergency situations, it’s that extreme circumstances often encourage people to step up, come together, and help one another weather the storm.
Having read last week’s article, you should already have emergency and communication plans in place to help safeguard your own household. Now that you are confident your own family will be safe, what can you do to help others?
The answers to this question can be divided into two categories: organized volunteer efforts taken on in preparation for an emergency, and individual steps you can take during an emergency to help others.
How to help as an individual
While organized volunteer efforts can provide you with advanced skills and guidance that will allow you to do the most good, there are plenty of ways to help protect your community as an individual as well. While most of these actions take place during an emergency, you can also take steps to help others prior to an emergency. Here’s how:
- Know your neighbors: It’s hard to help someone you don’t know. Try to make an effort to introduce yourself to your nearest neighbors, especially if they live alone, have serious medical conditions or limited mobility, care for young children, or show any other characteristics that might make them more vulnerable to emergency scenarios.
- Talk to them: Remember, not everyone watches the news or receives notifications about possible emergencies. If you are aware of a major storm or similar event expected to hit your area, spread the word and encourage people to review their medical supplies.
- Offer Shelter: If you have extra room in your home, consider offering shelter to friends, family, and coworkers living in areas likely to be hardest hit by an upcoming emergency. This is particularly useful if anyone you know lives in a flood zone or other geographic area known to be at-risk.
- Stock extra supplies: Buying in bulk is cheaper! When preparing for an emergency and supplying your home, consider stocking a little extra for others in your area who might not be as well prepared. If you or someone you know has access to stores that sell large-quantity items like Costco or BJ’s, consider shopping together so you can both benefit from the savings.
- Check in on your neighbors: If it is safe to go next door or down the hall, try to check in on the people living around you. Since 911 and other emergency services are likely to be swamped, checking in on an at-risk neighbor might be the only way to determine if someone else needs help.
- Carpool: Depending on the emergency, it’s possible that mass transit systems will shut down, and travel restrictions or occupancy minimums might be put in place for personal vehicles. If you own a personal vehicle and know your neighbors need to get somewhere, offering a ride can help everyone get where they are going faster.
- Direct Traffic: During the 2003 summer blackout, traffic lights in Lower Manhattan were out of commission for days, but personal cars were still allowed to use the roads. With police resources spread thin, many residents took shifts standing on corners, attempting to help manage traffic and minimize danger to pedestrians and drivers alike. If you choose to help in this capacity, consider wearing some sort of reflective material, bright colors, and bring a whistle, air horn, or other means of communicating. Finally, be sure you actually know how the traffic patterns are supposed to function on your intersection – back in 2003, more than a few drivers were sent down one-ways by well-meaning, but unaware civilian traffic controllers.
While there are plenty of ways to help your friends and neighbors on your own during an emergency, joining a volunteer organization that regularly prepares for emergency situations allows you to have an even bigger impact by giving you the tools and skills your community might need. Below are just some of the ways you can get involved.
Community Emergency Response Teams (CERT): CERT is a federal program run by FEMA that trains and equips participants for high-level emergency response tasks like fire control and search and rescue. Training totals about 20 hours and the training program is very intense; however those interested do not need any special skills or background prior to starting their training.
The American Red Cross : Volunteers are responsible for nearly 90% of all Red Cross operations in America. Volunteers can learn the basics of CPR and basic first aid, helpful skills in day-to-day life, and also have the opportunity to help with Red Cross sheltering and mass casualty facilities during emergencies.
Medical Reserve Corps : If you already have formal medical training, you can put those skills to use where they are needed most with the Medical Reserve Corps of NYC. This organization takes volunteers from a long list of medical fields (including physicians, nurses, midwives, social workers, and even veterinarians) to assist with mass immunizations, as well as providing care for people using the city’s shelter system during emergencies.
Fire Corps : Don’t worry, you don’t need to hold the hose. Fire Corps is an offshoot of the US Citizen’s Corps and trains volunteers to provide non-emergency assistance to their local Fire Department. This program frequently taps volunteers to provide in-community fire safety education, assist in recruitment efforts, and provide other support services.
American Radio Relay League : For those talented with technology new and old, the ARRL pulls double duty as both a meeting place for HAM radio enthusiasts and as an emergency communication network during emergency events. During an emergency, radio signals are one of the few ways to ensure important messages reach impacted communities. With a little solder and some transistors, you can become a part of the communication chain.
Meals on Wheels Association of America : Meals on Wheels does incredible work, bringing food to more than 1 million older Americans every day. During emergencies, the organization doubles down, often stocking homes with multi-day food supplies in anticipation of emergency events, while also offering their clients one-on-one emergency preparedness advice.
Remember, these organizations are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to ways you can help your community during a disaster, and almost all of these organizations have critical jobs suitable for people with different levels of mobility and physical ability.
We at SelectCare have helped keep our clients safe through countless emergency events and can attest to the incredible work these organizations perform time and time again. To learn more about SelectCare and our emergency preparation efforts, call us today or request a free home health care guide to learn more!