Happy Halloween! This was always one of my favorite holidays as a kid, and I enjoy it nearly as much now that I’m accompanying my own trick-or-treater on her appointed rounds. When I was a kid, of course, the candy was the greatest joy of Halloween. Nowadays, the joys are different. I love helping my daughter select and put together her costume, and I love seeing all the other kids and the outfits they picked. Perhaps the greatest part of the holiday, though, is the excuse to go around and meet our neighbors. Halloween offers the opportunity to get to know each other a little bit better, and that’s always a good thing.
Of course, we might not have had the chance for trick-or-treating tonight if Hurricane Sandy had hit us harder. It wasn’t exactly a walk in the park with the high winds and heavy rain we experienced from Monday evening into Tuesday morning, but all in all, it could have been worse.
We did have some downed trees and flooding (and my sympathies go out to anyone who was hit directly by them), but things turned out pretty well in Reston, all things considered. The damage here was much less severe than what we saw around New York City and in the northeast, and much less than what we experienced during this summer’s derecho. Hardly anyone here even lost power this time around.
But what if it had been worse? What if there had been widespread outages, or severe flooding, or roads blocked by downed trees? What if our clean water supply had been interrupted? Would we have been prepared? At my house, we’d prepared pretty well: we had canned food, flashlights and lots of batteries, an emergency radio, and bottles full of clean water. But how about the rest of the community? What about Restonians with special needs (medical conditions, for instance?) How would we have made sure they were okay?
As it happens, this weekend we’ll be discussing these questions at a community forum. RCA is pleased to support Reston for a Lifetime as they present “Is Your Neighborhood Ready for the Next Big Storm?” The forum is taking place Saturday, November 3rd from 2 to 4 PM at RCC Lake Anne. The goal of the forum is to figure out how we can come together as a community to help each other during big storms and similar emergency events.
Our featured speaker will be Marcelo Ferreira of the Fairfax County Office of Emergency Management. He’ll let us know about community resources we can call on in the event of an emergency. During the forum, we’ll look back at how the community handled the aftermath of the derecho, what we did well and what we need to work on. (I’m sure we’ll look at our response to Sandy as well.) And we’ll have an open discussion about what we can do as a community to be prepared when the next disaster hits.
If we wait until the storm is bearing down on us before we start preparing, it’s too late. Sure, we can stock up on canned goods and batteries at the last minute. But really preparing for an emergency means more than that.
It means identifying neighbors who might need assistance during a storm, and offering to help (or finding someone who can). It means establishing communication networks, so you can share information with your neighbors if the power goes out and other communication lines are down. It means identifying the people living near you who have a generator or rarely lose power, and seeing if they would host their neighbors in the event of an outage.
All these preparations have one step in common: talking to your neighbors. These kind of hyper-local preparations can’t be done effectively on a County-wide or even Reston-wide basis. We need to organize and prepare within each cluster, on each street, within each apartment building.
We’ll discuss tips and ideas at the forum, but in the end, these neighbor-to-neighbor conversations are at the heart of our storm preparation. The better we know our neighbors, their assets and their needs, the better we can help each other in the next storm. And with winter looming around the corner, now is the time to get ready.
I hope to see you at the forum on Saturday. And if you’re making the rounds with your little trick-or-treater tonight, or if you’re going to a Halloween party in your neighborhood, take a little time to get to know your neighbors. Perhaps while you’re talking, you can suggest a cluster or neighborhood meeting to discuss emergency preparedness. A little preparation now can help ensure that we all weather the next storm in good shape.
Also, if you’re handing out candy tonight and you happen to see Athena at your doorstep accompanied by a minuteman, be sure to say hello. The minuteman is fond of Milky Ways and Reese’s peanut butter cups. Just a thought.