Disaster preparedness: Map Your Neighborhood

Only about 35 percent of Bainbridge neighborhoods are prepared for a disaster.

Anne LeSage, the city’s emergency management coordinator, wants to see that at 100 percent. So the city is making a renewed effort to increase participation in Map Your Neighborhood. The effort recently was restarted after the state released new models of tsunami wave amplification if a significant earthquake should occur at the Seattle Fault.

The city is planning a marketing campaign on emergency preparedness in the fall.

“It brings a sense of community, sense of belonging” and brings neighborhoods together, LeSage says in the city’s MYN video.

Following a disaster, you may have to wait days, weeks, or longer before help can arrive or before power can be restored. MYN will provide a plan to bring your community together to reduce the consequences of disaster. Learn the steps to take following a disaster to secure your homes and protect your neighborhood.

Identify skills and equipment each neighbor has that are useful for effective and timely disaster response.

Identify locations of propane tanks so they can be shut off.

Establish a neighborhood contact list that helps identify those with specific needs such as the elderly, disabled or children who may be home alone during certain hours of the day.

Work as a team to evaluate your neighborhood and take action.

Started in 2008, the program originally was planned to deal with earthquakes, but now it’s available for any disaster — a wildfire, winter storm, pandemic … “25 different things could go wrong on the island,” LeSage says.

The program first started with a contractor and then the fire department. LeSage took it over when she was hired about four years ago. Her first year went well signing up neighborhoods, but when COVID hit they had to switch to online. “We shifted to Zoom, and there wasn’t the same level of interest,” she said July 21. “We’re trying to re-engage the community.”

LeSage said there are 170 neighborhoods involved in MYN; 36 since she started.

In dealing with the neighborhoods, one of the most-common shortfalls is the basics — not enough food and water stored for a disaster. “Do I really need a gallon of water per person per day?” she’s often asked. The answer is “yes,” unless you have a backup water source like a well or collect rainwater.

People who live in condos or apartments have an issue homeowners don’t have because they lack storage space. “It’s a real challenge,” LeSage said.

Disaster hubs

She said the more residents are prepared the fewer they will have to help in a disaster. People who can’t be prepared are tourists who could get stuck on the island during an emergency. So disaster hubs are being set up all over the island, within two miles walking distance for everyone. People can get medical care there and life-support services, along with basic food and water.

With MYN, people do an inventory of different skills, equipment and residents to be “ready for whatever the next disaster is,” LeSage says. Neighbors then know how to shut off utilities so the disaster isn’t made worse, who has generators, how much food and water is needed, etc. “How people can help one another,” LeSage says.

The mapping includes a household inventory form that asks about skills, such as electrical, and equipment like a ladder, generator, fire extinguisher, chainsaw, first aid supplies and training. It also asks about readiness, such as how much food and water you store, extra prescriptions, if you have emergency cash or an evacuation kit and a communication plan. It also includes the neighborhood plan with a list of contact names, phone numbers, pets and special needs for each house.

Each neighborhood has a team captain but also leaders for different areas, such as medical care center, damage assessment, gathering point leader, gas leak team, road clear team and more. Captains update the information as neighbors leave and new ones move in, along with updating ages of kids, any new equipment purchased, etc.

Training, which lasts about 90 minutes, also includes ideas on keeping neighborhoods engaged, like having potlucks and monthly emails. It suggests neighborhood captains communicate quarterly to discuss what’s working and what’s not. Practice disaster drills also are encouraged.

One main reason people don’t want to get involved is they don’t want to share personal information. But LeSage said people don’t have to share everything; just what they’re comfortable with. Neighborhood captains keep the records; they’re not even shared with the city.

It’s understandable if you “don’t want everyone to know when your kids are home alone,” she said. But it’s good if you share that with at least someone you trust so they could help out if needed. The same with medical information, for example.

The biggest problem in getting more neighborhoods involved is finding someone willing to take the time to get it organized, LeSage said.

Local captains

Two of the BI captains are Leslie Marshall and Pamela Malo, who speak in the video.

Marshall said she moved to the Commodore Lane area in 2008 and didn’t know anyone. She thought MYN sounded like a good idea, and she used it to get to know her neighbors. It took three years as the neighborhood kept expanding, now at 65 homes, but by talking to everyone one-on-one she got excellent participation.

She said that in-person connection “was the most important thing to do.” Sometimes she had to go back up to five times but it was “such a joy.”

While they haven’t worked together on a disaster yet, their awareness of each other’s skills and equipment have led them to do other projects, such as build a path near Bainbridge High School.

In another project, six neighborhoods gathered to participate in Wildfire Awareness Month. Big dumpsters were brought in so they could clear debris and cut limbs off trees around their homes.

In Marshall’s neighborhood, they even do fun things together, like singalongs. “It’s a great sense of neighborhood we have here,” she says.

Malo said she was new to the Baker Hill area and likewise wanted to get to know her neighbors. She went door to door handing out flyers, and they had a huge party to gather everyone together. Because there were so many people they broke up into smaller pods and chose captains.

Twice a year they have potlucks and rotate the homes so they can meet each other’s pets. They’ve even done training like CPR together.

Malo chuckled as she recalled one incident regarding equipment and the importance of being accurate. One person said, “I thought I had a chainsaw but it turns out it’s a leaf blower.”


Contact LeSage at alesage@bainbridgewa.gov to get booklets, flyers and other materials to initiate the process in your neighborhood.