Port Townsend’s unique county-community neighborhood preparedness project, NPREP, grew from a big-hearted sister-city project that took volunteers from a coastal town in Washington State to Bay St. Louis, Mississippi (pop 9,260). That isolated community had been hard hit by Hurricane Katrina. Federal aid dollars poured into nearby New Orleans, while Bay St. Louis struggled to recover.
Judy Alexander was one of the Katrina sister city project organizers. “When we came back, we recognized the similarities between our communities, and we thought about the exposure we had to earthquake risk.” After hearing Judy’s stories, Deborah Stinson reflected that, “We could be in the same situation, but would have no advanced warning. We knew we had to do something to make ourselves more resilient.”
The Katrina volunteers met with folks from Local 20/20, a newly formed sustainability and resilience group. Local 20/20 got on board with starting an Action Group to increase community preparedness.
Judy and Deborah began by surveying the community to see who else was working on this issue. “We did a little gap analysis, but mostly we were mapping assets,” Deborah said.
That’s when they invited Bob Hamlin, Director of Jefferson County’s Department of Emergency Management (DEM), over to Judy’s house for lunch.
“We were fascinated with Bob and the impressive network of resources and connections he’d established over the years,” Deborah said. “Together, we recognized that DEM’s biggest challenge would be incorporating engaged residents into that network. In the spirit of partnership, we said, ‘We have the capacity to organize neighborhoods and if we can connect with your officialdom, we can expand your capacity to respond to emergencies.’ He was receptive, fascinated, and a bit dumbfounded.”
Now they needed to show him that their fledgling group could deliver.
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