In Portland’s Sunnyside neighborhood – and in other neighborhoods – we’ve collaborated with a supportive Neighborhood Association (NA), and it has been extremely productive and mutually rewarding. We offer a summary of our experience hoping that it will be useful to other Neighborhood Emergency Teams (NETs).
- In a little over a year, more than 200 non-NET neighbors have joined our email list, and hundreds more have attended meetings or outreach events. Some do not have the time or desire to get NET Basic Training, and others are satisfied preparing “only” their block using Map Your Neighborhood. That’s fine. We want all of these people to be aware of each other and to share training resources. And we want to meet them before an emergency occurs.
- Each neighbor with an emergency kit makes for one less household you’ll need to worry about in an emergency – plus, they might be able to help as a Spontaneous Unaffiliated Volunteer (SUV) or Affiliated Trained Volunteer (ATV).
- We have supported several block parties/meetings where neighbors meet and create a plan for their micro-neighborhood.
- We are integrating with our NA’s Crime Prevention Committee, and the Office of Neighborhood Involvement’s Neighborhood Watch program. It’s a no-brainer: recruit civic-minded people wherever possible.
The “Sunnyside Prepared” committee was founded to recognize the need to work with everyone in the community who is interested in preparedness, not only NETs. Sunnyside has 6,000+ residents and fewer than 20 NETs. We need all hands on deck. The committee was proposed to and approved by our Neighborhood Association, who recognize the value in supporting this work. We proposed an itemized budget, and the NA board happily approved it out of their funds.
We also segment our monthly meetings into general “emergency prep” and NET portions. Everyone is welcome to attend all, unless we plan to discuss confidential information only approved for NETs.
There are so many reasons to do this!
As you may already know, PBEM/NET enables teams to accept tax-deductible donations through the Friends of Portland Fire & Rescue for equipment cache and supplies (see NET Guidelines doc for details). We cannot raise money through NAs due to their legal structure – BUT we can request money directly from NAs for other costs like printing and postage, tabling supplies, and giveaways. So:
Request a budget from your NA! We are aware of teams receiving $250 – $1,500 annually. Keep a keen eye on your accounting and use money strictly for its approved purposes; it is very important to keep your Friends of Portland Fire & Rescue and NA accounts and ledgers separate. And proactively report to your NA how its funding improved your outreach and performance. How many people attended events? How many brochures were distributed? Also account for in-kind costs you do not incur but which support your work, e.g. materials from PBEM. Your NA needs to understand the total return on its investment.
You will reach a much wider audience through your NA’s calendar and newsletter, as well as NextDoor.com. Your NA probably gets a booth at local street fairs at no cost. Ask to use/share it.
With official recognition by your NA, school administrators will be more likely to welcome your collaboration. Mention that NETs are background-checked by PBEM; of course, school staff do not allow strangers to wander school grounds. PPS has its own background check process that they may ask you to complete.
As a public agency, PBEM cannot support any activity that might be perceived as endorsing a business. However NAs can, and their endorsement legitimizes your outreach to local businesses. See the PortlandPrepares.org article NET + Business Partnership = Win Win Win. We are considering a window-sticker campaign to “brand” our neighborhood businesses for emergency preparedness.
Committees of NAs may place orders through the City’s Printing & Distribution office (SW 2nd & Main), whose rates are usually better than retail. Plus, with pre-approval for each order, they bill the NA directly so you don’t need to go out-of-pocket.
Once you get going, you will become one of your NA’s most productive and active committees. And that leads to more support and mutual reward.
- Neighborhood Association boards change. Ours is amazingly cooperative, though we’ve heard about contentious NAs in other parts of the city. Establish your committee outside the politics of other issues and be sure to report about the value you’re contributing. That should help ensure that your NA’s support will endure.
- At some meetings you will be mingling trained NETs with the general public, so balance NET exercises with an increase in outreach to people just beginning their personal emergency preparedness.
- Consider appointing an ATL to primarily handle outreach and ensure that you don’t neglect your other TL duties. To explore this, we plan to test separating our monthly public meetings with separate quarterly NET exercises.
We hope our experience will be useful to you. PLEASE, share your experiences with us. We would like to revise this piece in the future to incorporate great ideas that other teams share.
Jan Molinaro, Sunnyside Assistant Team Lead, Sunnyside Prepared Co-Chair, firstname.lastname@example.org