Friday, August 15, 2008

Who are the people in your neighborhood?

If you are like us, about once a year you will get a letter from one of your neighbors asking you to donate to a given cause (which is a good cause) by sending them your donation. They then gather all the donations and send a (hopefully) large donation, on behalf of the neighborhood, to the cause. We got such a letter yesterday. Small problem. We got two such letters yesterday.

One letter was addressed to my husband--I know this, because it was sent to his initial, our last name, our address. The other was sent to "Frida Nobblebipper." (Name changed to protect the identity of an unknown woman who might or might not live in our general area.) The irony? They know the full first name of Frida.

Thing is, we know all the people who have ever lived in this house, none of whom have the surname of "Nobblebipper". The original owners lived in this house for many years, continuing to live here after they raised their children. We considered buying it from them, but passed. We knew the second owners, who called us when they wanted to sell, because they knew that we had been interested a few years before. We were interested. Interested enough to buy it without it going on the market. Not a "Nobblebipper" in the bunch.

So, it probably will not surprise you that I found this interesting enough to talk to my best source (Mom) about. I have never actually been in charge of a project like this, but she told me that one year, an organization had called and asked her to do the same thing. She said that the organization provided a list of names and addresses to use to complete the project. So our neighbors were probably working from such a list, and perhaps thought that since "Frida Nobblebipper" was listed, that we had someone staying with us that they didn't know about.

How does this work into preparation? If you are still reading, :) this is how I see it. What if there is a natural disaster, and people in the neighborhood are the only ones available to provide help during the crucial first hours/days/fill in the blank? Wouldn't it be crucial to know who is accounted for, and who is trapped in rubble/hurt/fill in the blank? Wouldn't it be more efficient to be looking for someone who actually may be in need of assistance, rather than a "Frida Nobblebipper," who, if she exists, may be vacationing in Hawaii at the time of the emergency?

What if there were a pandemic? Everyone would be quarantined in their own houses, but let's say, hypothetically, that there is an actual Frida Nobblebipper, and she lives 3 doors down. Also in this hypothetical situation, there are three-year-old Thaddeus Nobblebipper, and one-year-old twins, Erastus and Petronella Nobblebipper--Frida's husband, Bartholomew, is in the military, off serving the country. What happens if Frida falls ill, there is no one to help with the children, no way of contacting anyone, and no one actually knows where she and her children are to even check on them?

Post title notwithstanding, I am not talking about Sesame Street here, but about emergency situations. I used unusual names a) in the hopes that no one will think that I am actually talking about them in particular, b)because a little humor lightens the atmosphere, and c) because I like to, but this little experience really kind of bothers me. If people who are going to make money (granted, for a good cause) from knowing where people are can't get it right, who will? As far as I know, there are not easily available lists of who lives where, unless you count the census. And since that is not available to the public for many years, it looks like it is up to us, as individuals, to figure such a list out, keep it current and available, and then use it when an emergency strikes that affects our neighborhoods.

My best source (Mom) told me about Her neighborhood is set up this way in Utah, but I haven't heard about it in my state. Apparently, a lot of neighborhoods in her area are set up to deal with a disaster in this way--I really need to convince her to write her own blog, huh? :)

I have looked at some of this site and need to study the program in depth to try to implement it in my neighborhood, but so far it actually looks pretty simple. The hard part for me will be getting out of my comfort zone and trying to get it started, even if it ends up not being mainly me or even mostly me getting it organized. Probably not everyone will participate, but won't a plan for emergency situations benefit everyone that does participate if an emergency does occur? Unusual names aside, it would be heartbreaking if there were an actual "Thaddeus, Erastus, and Petronella" who could possibly have their lives saved if someone knew where they were, but who suffer or worse because no one even knows they exist. There are other possible scenarios--older people who need assistance, etc.--but in the end, we have to know where the "Frida Nobblebippers" of the world are, and what their needs are, before we can help them.

I freely admit (although there is considerable shame involved) that I don't know all of the people in my neighborhood. I plan to work on it so that I do. Hopefully, the fact that I have written this down, in this blog, will encourage me to do it faster.

Chances are, though, that I'm not in your particular neighborhood, so unfortunately, anything I help to set up will not affect you or those around you. We have to help who we can. Who are the people in your neighborhood?


Stephanie in AR said...

This is very important as emergency services might not have your neighborhood in its system. Since the USPS went to their new computer system we have had unending problems with receiving our mail. For a few months we must add a direction to the address then later, no just the plain street. In talking to the local postal head, she was very sympathetic and began talking of the latest emergency services meeting she had been required to attend. Seems that our town has too many streets with names that are variations of the same name. Not only is it interfering with mail delivery but an entire section of town doesn't exist in the services system. If an actual emergency were to happen no one would be dispatched to help. Those people would be sol. How's that for a kick in the teeth? The USPS cannot do anything as street names are a city matter and the city powers that be don't want to upset residents with new street names. Better hope friends & neighbors know you exist - just like you said.

Marie said...

Stephanie--thanks for your comment. Wow, this kind of scenario never even entered my mind--I thought that in an emergency situation everyone who wasn't attended to first would have to wait their turn in line, but I never even thought of the possibility that some people wouldn't even get a place in the line. One thing that's good about it is that you know about it before an emergency hits and can be better prepared for one. Perhaps everyone should check and make sure that their area actually exists in terms of their community's emergency services system. Thanks for the food for thought!


The Scavenger said...

Marie, once again you have called to attention a subject that I would have never thought about. You must really keep those wheels turning. LOL As I read this post I tried to think of the names and numbers of children that live in this samll place that I live. There are some homes that I don't have any idea who or how many people live there. Keep in mind that this is a one lane road that is about 2.5 miles long that ends on a gravel road into Daniel Boone National Forest. Very few homes here and I still don't know who they are but, now I'm gonna make it a point to find out. Thanks.


Marie said...

Chris--My job should be relatively easy compared to yours--we have easier access to our neighbors, it sounds like, than you do, so I have very little in the way of excuses. That's why I just need to get myself to do something rather than just think about it... :)Thing is, when there are more people around, like here, I think there is more of a tendency to think that someone else will take care of whatever problems come up. Good luck with your situation--it sounds more challenging, in terms of access to people, than here. (And probably more beautiful--wow, a National Forest! :) Thanks for your comment!


riverwalker said...

The level of participation may not be the best but in a crisis you will remember who put forth the effort to try and help organize things and these will be the people who will take the lead for a positive outcome.


Ron said...

We are slowly getting to know our neighbors, through the neighbors we have met. It is very critical to know neighbors out here, more than we originally realized. Were there a fire or emergency of some sort, no one can count on fire trucks, ambulance, or police to arrive in a reasonable timeframe, or to drive down some of the roads around here.


Marie said...

Riverwalker--I agree with you about the level of participation--but even if it's not high, at least I would have a place to start, and hopefully, if my family were in trouble, at least I would have made it known where we were... :)
Thanks for your comment!


Marie said...

Ron-- Your comment underscores for me how it's good to find out what kind of scenario you are looking at in terms of your own situation when getting prepared, and it's not just one-size-fits-all. Some situations, like Stephanie's, above, are not immediately obvious, but just as necessary to know about. In any situation, I would think it would be better to figure out ahead of time (me doing the "what if" thing :) what to do if situations were to arise--then I would panic less...yeah, just less. :) Thanks for your comment!