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Door-to-Door Emergency Preparedness
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Joel Weiler
 
June 17, 2008

No one needs to remind the owner of the neighborhood convenience store about fire prevention—every morning he wakes up to a view of the charred building across the street.

As a part of our Together We Prepare Our Neighborhood project, staff and volunteers helped prepare our Humboldt neighborhood by going door to door with personal disaster supplies and resource kits and offering to perform home fire safety checks.
As a part of our Together We Prepare Our Neighborhood project, staff and volunteers helped prepare our Humboldt neighborhood by going door to door with personal disaster supplies and resource kits and offering to perform home fire safety checks.

That’s why he is so pleased to see American Red Cross employees and volunteers fan out across Portland, Oregon’s Humboldt neighborhood to talk about emergency preparedness with residents.

Over the course of two days, the first effort of the Oregon Trail Chapter’s new Together We Prepare Our Neighborhood project reached more than 1,600 homes. The goal is to not just respond to those in need, but to prevent fires and other emergencies before they even start.

“With this project, we can give residents the tools for preventing, preparing and responding to disasters and emergencies in their own homes,” said emergency preparedness manager Linda Swift.

Together We Prepare Our Neighborhood began when Thomas Bruner, CEO of the Oregon Trail Chapter, asked staff to start analyzing response data to find out what neighborhoods in the Portland metro area would benefit the most from emergency preparedness education.

“We had never really analyzed that data,” said health and safety director Stephanie Morgan. “What he really wanted us to do was to be more proactive and make an impact in the community rather than simply react.”

Health and safety sales coordinator Lindsay Pour reviewed data from 2005 through 2007 to determine the frequency of responses in the area’s more than 100 zip codes. After pinpointing the area of highest frequency, she mapped out individual cases by street to identify high risk neighborhoods. The Humboldt neighborhood had a cluster of responses and also happened to fall between two of the highest frequency zip codes.

While there weren’t necessarily more fires in Humboldt than in other neighborhoods, there were more Red Cross responses. Some reasons for the higher rates of response may be proximity to the chapter’s headquarters, higher rates of uninsured homeowners and renters or reduced ability to find alternate housing or pay for a hotel stay.

Volunteers who took to the streets handed out first aid and starter emergency kits, and offered emergency preparedness walkthroughs of each home. The event also featured a neighborhood safety fair with hands-on first aid, CPR and disaster kit demonstrations. The Oregon Trail Chapter plans to hold similar events each quarter in other high risk neighborhoods.

“People enjoyed discussing their preparedness plans and asking questions,” said Swift. “One resident plans to use the information to prepare his new home. The talk of smoke alarms, fire extinguishers and evacuation plans really connected.”

While the Red Cross can’t erase the damage caused by previous fires in the Humboldt neighborhood, the chapter is hopeful that the Together We Prepare Our Neighborhood project will mean fewer fires and charred buildings in Humboldt’s future.

About the American Red Cross:
The American Red Cross shelters, feeds and counsels victims of disasters; provides nearly half of the nation's blood supply; teaches lifesaving skills; and supports military members and their families. The Red Cross is a charitable organization – not a government agency – and depends on volunteers and the generosity of the American public to perform its humanitarian mission. For more information, please visit www.redcross.org or join our blog at www.redcrosschat.org.



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