Emergency Watch helps Anchorage residents
Community preparedness program organizes Anchorage citizens for disasters
Contact: Dawn Brantley
ANCHORAGE- As the country recovers from tornadoes and braces for more storms, the Municipality of Anchorage Office of Emergency Management (OEM) reminds citizens that it is both important and possible to prepare for disasters.
Recent disasters worldwide have raised awareness of both the importance of disaster preparedness and the realities of disasters. Lessons learned from the Japan earthquake in March include that even a country with emergency preparation, response, and management systems in place can be overwhelmed by a disaster.
After a community-wide disaster, emergency services can become overwhelmed by the life-saving needs of the community. In a major disaster, it could take hours or days to restore basic services such as electricity, gas, water and phones. As a result, the Alaska Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management recommends that residents be prepared to survive on their own for 5-7 days. After any emergency, citizens’ most immediate source of help are the people living around them; when they are educated, trained and prepared to respond, everyone in the neighborhood is safer.
Dawn Brantley, who coordinates community preparedness efforts for the Municipality of Anchorage Office of Emergency Management says, “No city can be completely prepared without prepared citizens.” To enable Anchorage citizens to effectively and efficiently help each other after a disaster, the Office of Emergency Management coordinates the Emergency Watch Neighborhood Program. This program assists neighborhoods in:
- Educating neighbors about emergencies and emergency preparedness
- Creating a neighborhood emergency plan
- Preparing to respond to and recover from disaster of any size
- Practicing the neighborhood plan annually
Emergency Watch neighborhoods are led by two neighborhood leaders and have four volunteer teams that complete critical tasks after any emergency: first aid/medical response, communications, disaster survey, and resources. Each neighborhood serves 15-25 households and each member of an Emergency Watch neighborhood receives prioritized access to free training provided through the Office of Emergency Management. Upcoming trainings include CPR/First Aid, Community Emergency Response Team modules, Small-Scale Shelter Operations, and Fundamentals of Disaster Operations.
Individuals interested in starting a program and volunteering as a neighborhood leader are provided with an Emergency Watch Neighborhood Leader Toolkit and a 2.5-hour orientation at the Emergency Operations Center by the Office of Emergency Management. Interested residents do not need to have a second leader in place to start an Emergency Watch program in their neighborhood. The orientation covers basic emergency management concepts; the structure and purpose of Emergency Watch; how to start a program; and how to maintain it. The neighborhood leaders are then asked to hold two short planning meetings and one annual exercise in their neighborhoods.
Since the rollout of the revamped Emergency Watch Toolkits and trainings in November 2010, the program has grown from 17 neighborhood leaders to more than 80 trained neighborhood leaders. Even though the program has grown substantially, these leaders and neighborhoods cover only approximately 1,600 households; as such, more neighborhood leaders are needed, particularly in Eagle River, which currently has only eight leaders.
Emergency Watch Neighborhood Leader Orientations do not obligate participants to volunteer for the program, and are provided free of charge. To find out if there is a program or a leader in your neighborhood and to get more information about Emergency Watch, go to www.muni.org/Departments/OEM/Prepared/Pages/EmergencyWatch.aspx or contact Dawn Brantley at firstname.lastname@example.org or 343-1407. The next Neighborhood Leader Orientations are coming up June 2 & 4, 2011. To register for the Orientation, go to www.muni.org/oem and click on the ‘Register for Event’ link.