Our world is ever changing and this year has demonstrated that change can occur rapidly and with devastating results. We became aware of the COVID-19 outbreak in China late last year and by February the World Health Organization had declared a pandemic. On February 25th, your neighborhood disaster preparedness team activated volunteers in response. They were initially tasked with looking in on high-risk and elderly neighbors they were aware of. By mid-March, each volunteer had surveyed a much larger area, collectively covering the entire neighborhood and looking for the OK/HELP signs included with the Spring 2020 Southeast Neighbor News. Many of you posted the OK sign in front windows to let your neighbors know that you and your family were not in need of help. We thank you for participating in this effort to communicate with and care for your nearby neighbors.
Even though the pandemic continues, we are asking that you take down your sign and keep it available for future use. We know that so many of us are not well-connected with our nearby neighbors. In the event of a disaster when communication systems fail, posting your HELP sign could very well save your life. If you no longer have your sign and would like to have one, please contact SENeighborsPrepared@gmail.com. We’ll get one to you!
As part of our neighborhood’s response to the pandemic, we created a page on the Recovers.org website to help connect those in need with those who can offer assistance. Some volunteers continue to assist elderly and high-risk neighbors who sought help through Recovers with activities like shopping. Due to the Holiday Farm Fire and the hundreds of displaced families in need, we have transitioned our page from the Recovers website to support all of Lane County. Several SEN volunteers are now working with Community Organizations Active in Disaster (COAD) to assist fire evacuees.
Recognizing the danger a wildland fire like Holiday Farm can pose even to residents in the Eugene/Springfield metro area, SEN in partnership with several other neighborhood associations is asking the Fire Marshal’s office to assist us in developing neighborhood-specific evacuation plans. We are also advocating for state and local funding so that neighborhoods can successfully play the role our emergency management agencies are asking of us. Through the Neighborhood Leaders Council (NLC), a local civic organization, Eugene’s neighborhoods are exploring the creation of a Fire Council to maintain focus on the emerging fire danger, to assist volunteer organizations like SEN in developing concrete, data-driven fire prevention policies, and to advocate for the necessary funding.
To jumpstart this initiative the NLC hosted the first of many online forums to provide Eugene residents with expert advice on preparing for an responding to potential disaster scenarios. The forum series began on October 29 with presentations on wildfire prevention and response. Eugene/Springfield Fire Chief Chris Heppel, Deputy Fire Chief Amy Linder, and Tim Ingalsbee, Executive Director of Firefighters United for Safety, Ethics and Ecology (FUSEE) identified lessons learned from the Holiday Farm Fire, and educated attendees on how to protect their homes from wildfire and develop community-based solutions.
Recordings of the Fire Prevention Program are now available:
- Part 1: Eugene / Springfield Fire Chief Chris Heppel
- Part 2: Deputy Chief / Fire Marshal Amy Linder
- Part 3: FUSEE Executive Director Tim Ingalsbee
- Part 4: David Monk asks audience questions
For questions or to get involved, contact the Disaster Preparedness Committee at SENeighborsPrepared@gmail.com.