Get to Know Your Neighbors
Citizens Organized to Prepare for Emergencies (COPE), was started by residents of the Santa Rose Community of Oakmont, in cooperation with the Santa Rosa Fire Department and the American Red Cross. The Leaders of the Oakmont COPE Program, Sue Hattendorf and Al Thomas have over 2,397 households out of a total of 2,915 participating in their program. It is the belief of the City of Santa Rosa that we can, and need to, repeat this success. With the help of spirited citizen volunteers working in the community to train and educate their neighbors, we can all COPE a little better with disasters that may disrupt our lives such as earthquake, fire, flood, landslide and other natural and man-made emergencies.
The mission of COPE is to help residents, families, and neighborhoods become and remain better prepared to respond to and recover from emergency situations. This includes developing individual response plans, maintaining individual emergency supply kits, and outreaching to neighborhoods in the community.
Developing Your Own COPE Neighborhood
The following seven steps are guidelines to aid COPE Leaders develop COPE Neighborhood Teams:
- Define the Scope of Your Neighborhood. Include ten to twenty homes. If a homeowners association, Mobile Home Park, Condominium, segment into manageable groups.
- Build Your Neighborhood Leadership. Enlist one leader and recruit two to three people as Co-Leaders. They should be committed to the COPE program and capable of responding to rapidly changing situations.
- Take a Census of the Residents in Your Neighborhood. The Census Form is to document resident names, contact information, special skills, special needs, physical limitations, health problems, and equipment that could be useful, such as generators and chainsaws. Be prepared to help neighbors who need assistance.
- Record Information about Each Home. Record location of gas, water, and electric shutoffs. Understand manual operation of garage door. Note specific fire dangers, such as wooden shingle roofs and location of flammable vegetation and hazardous materials. Note availability of special tools for use in emergencies.
- Identify Meeting Site and Escape Routes. Define alternative evacuation routes for evacuation based on specific situations. Designate a meeting site near home and an alternative safe site outside the neighborhood if the neighborhood is inaccessible or evacuated.
- Schedule and Conduct a Meeting of Residents. Introduce COPE Neighborhood Leader and Co-Leaders. Review results of COPE Census Form. Discuss central meeting site and escape routes, team actions in the event of an emergency, and communications and transportation to medical control/evaluation centers. Distribute copies from this guide to each residence.
- Maintain Your Plans and Kits with Ongoing Effort. Every time you change your clocks (every six months), conduct a COPE Neighborhood meeting and review and update all COPE material. Update COPE Census Form for new residents in your neighborhood or changes to needs and capabilities of residents. Review meeting site and escape routes. Inform residents of any changes.
Conducting COPE Neighborhood Meetings
Stress the following to the COPE Neighborhood:
- Know the two best evacuation routes from each room, your home, and the neighborhood.
- Know where your designated COPE Neighborhood meeting site is in your neighborhood and outside the neighborhood.
- Know which Fire Station is closest to your location to obtain assistance and to provide updates on your neighborhood.
- Know where your utility shutoffs (gas, electricity and water) are located and know how to turn them off. Caution residents to NOT turn off gas except in a real emergency when you smell natural gas or hear a gas leak. If it is turned off, the gas company will need to come out and turn the gas back on.
- Know how to open your garage door if power is off. If you are unable to raise the door manually, please tell your COPE Neighborhood Leader so that assistance can be provided.
- When an emergency occurs, go to the COPE Neighborhood meeting site for roll call. If residents are not present, a team of at least two COPE members will be sent to check on them. Remember that your own safety comes first; never jeopardize your own safety.
- During or after a major emergency, if safe, get cars out of the garage and park them on the street in the direction that has been determined to be the best evacuation route.
- Have an emergency response plan and emergency preparedness kit.
- Your COPE Neighborhood leader will collect and summarize information from your neighborhood to relay to the COPE Zone Coordinator, who alerts the COPE District Coordinator at the nearest Fire Station.
- Review and update your census, contact information, individual plans, emergency supply kit, smoke detector, and battery-operated devices each spring and fall when you change your clock.