Emergency Watch program helps Anchorage citizens prepare for the worst
Community preparedness program organizes Anchorage citizens for disasters
ANCHORAGE- As the country recovers from tornadoes and braces for more storms, the
Municipality of Anchorage Office of Emergency Management (OEM) reminds citizens
that it is both important and possible to prepare for disasters.
Recent disasters worldwide have raised awareness of both the importance of disaster
preparedness and the realities of disasters. Lessons learned from the Japan earthquake in
March include that even a country with emergency preparation, response, and
management systems in place can be overwhelmed by a disaster.
After a community-wide disaster, emergency services can become overwhelmed by the
life-saving needs of the community. In a major disaster, it could take hours or days to
restore basic services such as electricity, gas, water and phones. As a result, the Alaska
Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management recommends that
residents be prepared to survive on their own for 5-7 days. After any emergency, citizens'
most immediate source of help are the people living around them; when they are
educated, trained and prepared to respond, everyone in the neighborhood is safer.
Dawn Brantley, who coordinates community preparedness efforts for the Municipality of
Anchorage Office of Emergency Management says, "No city can be completely prepared
without prepared citizens."
To enable Anchorage citizens to effectively and efficiently help each other after a disaster,
the Office of Emergency Management coordinates the Emergency Watch Neighborhood
Program. This program assists neighborhoods in:
- Educating neighbors about emergencies and emergency preparedness
- Creating a neighborhood emergency plan
- Preparing to respond to and recover from disaster of any size
- Practicing the neighborhood plan annually
Emergency Watch neighborhoods are led by two neighborhood leaders and have four
volunteer teams that complete critical tasks after any emergency: first aid/medical
response, communications, disaster survey, and resources. Each neighborhood serves 15-
25 households and each member of an Emergency Watch neighborhood receives
prioritized access to free training provided through the Office of Emergency
Management. Upcoming trainings include CPR/First Aid, Community Emergency
Response Team modules, Small-Scale Shelter Operations, and Fundamentals of Disaster
Individuals interested in starting a program and volunteering as a neighborhood leader are
provided with an Emergency Watch Neighborhood Leader Toolkit and a 2.5-hour
orientation at the Emergency Operations Center by the Office of Emergency
Management. Interested residents do not need to have a second leader in place to start an
Emergency Watch program in their neighborhood. The orientation covers basic
emergency management concepts; the structure and purpose of Emergency Watch; how
to start a program; and how to maintain it. The neighborhood leaders are then asked to
hold two short planning meetings and one annual exercise in their neighborhoods.
Since the rollout of the revamped Emergency Watch Toolkits and trainings in November
2010, the program has grown from 17 neighborhood leaders to more than 80 trained
neighborhood leaders. Even though the program has grown substantially, these leaders
and neighborhoods cover only approximately 1,600 households; as such, more
neighborhood leaders are needed, particularly in Eagle River, which currently has only
Emergency Watch Neighborhood Leader Orientations do not obligate participants to
volunteer for the program, and are provided free of charge. To find out if there is a
program or a leader in your neighborhood and to get more information about Emergency
Watch, go to www.muni.org/Departments/OEM/Prepared/Pages/EmergencyWatch.aspx
or contact Dawn Brantley at firstname.lastname@example.org or 343-1407. The next Neighborhood
Leader Orientations are coming up June 2 & 4, 2011. To register for the Orientation, go
to www.muni.org/oem and click on the 'Register for Event' link.