Over the last dozen years, residents of Eugene’s neighborhood associations have supported nearby neighbors during ice storms, snow storms, wind storms, power outages, heat domes, wildfires, and other climate-change-driven extreme weather events, using the same tools we will one day use in response to a Cascadia Subduction Zone earthquake.
We have learned that many families, friends, and neighbors cannot participate in emergency preparedness programs that are based on storing surplus food and equipment, due to limited financial resources, time, and knowledge.
The Eugene-Springfield metro area and Lane County consistently rank among the top populations in Oregon — and sometimes even the nation — of those most vulnerable to the extreme weather events driven by human-caused climate change: Newcomers, elders, income-constrained, and unhoused.
FEMA recommends a Whole Community approach that brings basic life-giving safety and security to all persons, regardless of financial means, ability, or even awareness of the need to prepare.
Nearby neighbors play a significant role during all four phases of Emergency Management, especially during the early response, as requests for assistance outnumber the available first responders. The person most likely to save your life is a co-worker or nearby neighbor.
Neighbors also play a critical lead role in the community’s long-term recovery, especially as they go on to organize for mitigation and continue their efforts in local preparedness.
Based on pilot projects at the level of the individual Eugene neighborhood, coordinating through the citywide Neighborhood Leaders Council and partnering with City, County, Emergency Management, and CERT teams, this project builds out the neighborhood side of the response organization structure and its related communications network to the scale of a metropolitan area designated as a Census County Division (CCD). This supports data analysis to determine the populations most at risk and share that data with decision-makers.
The Eugene-Springfield CCD had rates higher than average for persons aged 65 and older, and persons experiencing poverty and homelessness. ICS Project Team leaders recommended that Whole Community outreach start with these often-underserved communities.
Following FEMA guidance, we engage the Whole Community with four projects:
- Implementing a comprehensive Exercise and Evaluation Program;
- Practicing use of the ICS / Whole Community Support organizational structure;
- Sharing Public Information about preparedness with neighbors and community media;
- Recognizing volunteer contributions in a Community Time Bank to sustain neighbor networks.