Sustainable in the City: Community Solidarity if the SHTF

community_solidarity1st October 2013

By  Tess Pennington

Guest Writer for  Wake Up World

When I first began learning about the worst case scenarios associated with emergencies and disasters, I have to admit there was a part of me terrified of waves of crime and gangs attacking our home and injuring my family. I knew that when the needs of the unprepared are not met, they are more likely to participate in breakdowns of society that eventually lead to them taking matters into their own hands.

Essentially, I believed my future would be a life living in fear. What if my husband was injured? How would I protect my family alone? I had tunnel vision and was not looking at the greater picture. Admitting to having fear is perfectly normal when we’re talking about a SHTF scenario. This fear helps us to better prepare our families to take better care of them. Once we remove the goggles for tunnel vision, only then can we realize we have a great opportunity at our disposal. If we want to thrive – we need our communities to thrive as well.

The resilience of our communities is solely dependent on how prepared each of its members are. A prepared community can prevent, protect against, mitigate the effects of, respond to, and assist in recovery from threats that pose the greatest risk.

To make this happen, our efforts must lie in readying our entire community through preparedness-based education and actively putting preparedness measures and supplies in each household. But first, you must ensure that your own home is prepared before you can branch out into preparing a community. Each household should look into creating a preparedness plan, securing preparedness measures of their own and also actively creating security layers outside and inside the home to defend against vulnerabilities.

The Pros to a Prepared Community

In an extended emergency, a prepared community can bind together to share responsibilities and distribute tasks such as gardening, hunting, cooking, purifying water, gathering essential supplies and protecting the community. Knowing what your neighbor’s strengths are will help create a more prepared community.

We are all aware of the strength in numbers, and our odds of survival rest partly in those we can rely on. Having a large group of prepared individuals will help the community thrive for longer amounts of time because multiple parties will have preparedness supplies to draw from. Along those lines, a large group of preppers can diversify themselves through cross training in various essential skills. Individuals bringing a variety of skills binds the group further to create a solid, well-functioning team.

In all honesty, you must realize that not everyone in the community will be on board toward getting supplies in place. Keep in mind that all you can do is prepare the ones who are on board and who see the bigger picture of getting a community prepared.

How To Create a Preparedness Plan for Your Community

It is more worthwhile to teach someone to do something, than to do something for them. The quote, “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime” comes to mind when the discussion of community-based preparedness is addressed. Rather than relying on the government to take care of our needs, we need the entire community to be well informed as well as self sufficient. We have seen first hand how inundated police and other emergency personnel become during and after a disaster – we are essentially left on our own until the recovery efforts begin. In an extended emergency, a prepared community can bind together to weather the storm. As a whole, a community should understand the importance of making preparedness a priority. This concept comes down to education.

Educating the masses on emergency preparedness will keep a community level headed as well as be more accepting at what needs to happen in order for the greater community to survive. They will understand what is to be expected during and after a disaster, what their duties are as citizens and how to better protect their community. This proactive mindset will trickle down to younger generations thus creating a more preparedness based mindset for future generations.

1. Make a plan. Similar to creating your own family’s preparedness plan, ask similar questions to begin the task of community wide education on preparedness. Ask your neighborhood and other members of the community for input on how a community can be more prepared. This will help you find out what your community believes its vulnerabilities and concerns are. Create a questionnaire that lists multiple preparedness-based questions such as:

  • What do you believe the most likely disasters to prepare for are?
  • What do you believe the biggest concerns are during and after a disaster?
  • Do you believe the community is prepared enough to thrive during a disaster? If not, what ways can we make it so?
  • What skills do you possess that could benefit the community in a disaster?

Further, find out about the disaster plans at your workplace, your children’s school or daycare center, and other places where your family spends time. Once you have an understanding of what your community’s concerns and strengths are, establish close relationships with local community organizations. Seeing that you are willing to volunteer your time and services to this cause will help them be more willing to make this a priority. Further, getting to know what your local organizations’ protocols are toward emergencies will help your community better understand how to develop action plans, and guidelines for procedures and communication during a crisis. Some questions to ask community leaders and emergency organizations are:

  • Should the public become involved in the response? If so, in what way(s)?
  • What public or community function(s) has been or may be adversely impacted?
  • What geographical area(s) has been or may be adversely impacted if a disaster occurs?
  • How many people could be threatened, affected, exposed, injured, or dead?
  • How will the community help elderly or disabled persons, if needed?
  • If critical infrastructures have been affected (e.g., electrical power, water
  • supplies, sanitation, telecommunications, transportation, etc.), in what ways can the community thrive?
  • If the medical and health care facilities have been affected, what protocols can be taken to ensure the community has medical care?
  • Are escape routes open and accessible during disasters?
  • What other agencies and organizations will respond to an incident?
  • How can information be communicated to responders and the public to protect itself?
  • Does your community have existing mutual-aid agreements with other agencies,organizations, or jurisdictions?
  • Has an Incident Command Post (ICP) been established? If so, where is it?
  • Who is the Incident Commander (IC)? How can the IC be contacted?
  • If the local or state government is not operating, who is next in line?
  • What are your community’s warning signals: what they sound like and what you should do when you hear them?
  • How will animals be cared for after a disaster?

Some organizations that have mutual- aid agreements would be beneficial to your endeavors. Some organizations to contact could be:

  • Emergency Management Agencies (EMAs)
  • Emergency Medical Services (EMS)
  • Medical/health/behavioral care providers
  • Fire, law enforcement, and other federal,
  • State, local, and tribal response organizations
  • Local Emergency Planning Committees (LEPCs)
  • State, regional, and tribal public health response coordinators
  • Humanitarian/non-governmental/volunteer organizations
  • Community Emergency Response Teams (CERTs)
  • Medical Reserve Corps (MRC)
  • Private businesses
  • Academic institutions (schools of public health, medicine, nursing, etc.)
  • Other pertinent agencies/organizations such as churches, meet up groups or already existing prepper groups

2. Make it public. With the information you have accrued, you can report back the findings to your community and begin developing protocols and action plans. At the meetings, have all pertinent information and lists available for the public. I have found that checklists help a lot in organizing information that can easily be read. Meanwhile, keep providing information to local leaders and interested community members. You can do this by:

  • Creating a monthly meeting with free preparedness training provided.
  • A website with a newsletter to get information out to the masses.
  • Participating in public service announcements or putting notices on local cable television are other ways to keep the community informed.
  • Forming a partnership with local media outlets can be invaluable for promoting your program and recognizing contributions from presenters and others.
  • You can also advertise your page in the free classified sections of local newspapers.
  • Start a face book page for local residents to post preparedness and prepper deals.

Further, setting up activities outdoors such as a barbecue or outdoor preparedness fair to meet the community will also assist in getting your message across. To show your passion for this cause, take photographs of preparedness sessions to promote future sessions or add them to your website and social media platforms. Note: Remember to get releases from individuals before publishing the photographs.

3. Educate the masses. Take a lesson from the major emergency organizations out there – educate, train and implement strategies to help the community feel comfortable about the emergency protocols in place. In a disaster situation, when a community understands what is happening and what to expect, they are more responsive to the situation itself and can easily adapt to their environment. Provide orientation and training to the public on the emergency operations plans, procedures, guidelines, command and management systems, and incident management systems used by your community.

4. Practice makes perfect. Participate in the planning, design, and conduct of routine exercises to evaluate the public’s knowledge on emergency preparedness and response. A critical component to survival is having the right frame of mind to handle the stresses before and after a disaster. Teach a community the importance of mental preparedness and help simulate real disaster scenarios so they are less apt to panic during an actual disaster.

Together We Stand

You have a unique opportunity to share your knowledge and your skills with your community. We want our communities to be safer, stronger, and better prepared to withstand emergencies. Preparedness efforts should start with your household and expand into the greater community.

Educating the masses on the importance of emergency preparedness, setting up protocols, and cooperating with existing disaster organization’s procedures will help the community as a whole pool resources and sustain themselves in times of long-term recovery.

Previous article by Tess

About the author

Prepper's Cookbook

Tess Pennington is the author of  The Prepper’s Cookbook:  300 Recipes to Turn Your Emergency Food into Nutritious, Delicious, Life-Saving Meals. When a catastrophic collapse cripples society, grocery store shelves will empty within days. But if you follow this book’s plan for stocking, organizing and maintaining a proper emergency food supply, your family will have plenty to eat for weeks, months or even years.

Tess was raised by a “prepper” in Houston TX, where hurricanes would batter and bruise the coast every few years.  After graduating from college, she joined the Red Cross in 1999 where she regularly came into contact with  people caught off guard and ill-equipped to handle the unexpected.  Now Tess believes preparing for disasters is only natural, and she  hopes that we can all learn, share and find insight together.

Visit her web site at


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