Disaster Preparedness and Response

 Nobody needs to ask “Why have a Disaster Preparedness and Response Plan and Team in our park”? The answer is pretty obvious.   The problem is getting park residents to be pro-active, and in finding volunteer leaders.

It is now a state law that all parks must have an Emergency Response plan, but some of them are not much more than “how to turn off the gas”.   So the first step is to find out what your park’s plan is. If there is an organized plan, work with management to make sure that the plan is adequate and that residents know what the plan is. If there is no organized plan, work with other residents to set one up. In a disaster affecting a large area, it could take a long time for emergency responders to reach your park – it will be up to your DPR Team and your residents to do what they can in the meantime.

In general, your park should have a plan in which

  • Resident volunteers act as team leaders to implement the plan
  • Team leaders have knowledge of residents with special needs and residents who have skills that would be useful in a disaster (doctor, nurse, firefighter, etc.)
  • All residents are made aware of what they should do in the event of a disaster – how to be prepared for evacuation or being trapped in their home, who is the team leader responsible for helping them in a disaster, etc.

Your DPR Team should expand upon the park’s plan in any way that is appropriate for your park and the kinds of disasters you are likely to face. Some parks are particularly vulnerable to wildfires, others to tsunamis or flooding; parks near the freeway could be evacuated due to hazardous material spills; we are all vulnerable to earthquakes.   Some of the ideas that can be considered are:

  • Dividing the park up into sections with an equal number of homes in each section, and having a “point person” in each section to check up on the residents in the event of a disaster;
  • Providing the “point people” with walkie-talkie radios so that they can communicate with team leaders in the event of a disaster;
  • Keeping stockpiles of emergency supplies in a location where they can be easily accessed;
  • Having some kind of sign that can be placed in the window of a home that lets disaster volunteers and emergency responders know that this resident is OK;
  • Sending some of your residents (particularly the “point people”) to CERT (Community Emergency Response Team) training (check with the Fire Department to find out about classes);
  • Having disaster drills in the park so that you can practice your plan.

Your DPR Team should encourage your residents to

  • keep a Vial of Life box on their refrigerator;
  • assemble an escape kit or backpack that is ready to go with whatever they would need to live away from home for up to a week, in case of evacuation (the Red Cross has good ideas about what to put in it);
  • assemble supplies that they would need if they were to be trapped in their home for several days;
  • look out for their neighbors with special needs;
  • for families, develop a good family plan, including what to do if the family members are separated at the time a disaster occurs.

There are a lot of other good ideas and plans you can discover online or through the Red Cross, the Fire Department, GSMOL, AARP and other agencies. The best thing is to adapt the plans that you find in ways that will work for YOUR park and YOUR residents.

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