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Photos courtesy of Philip Baguiao
Ms. Peggy Keller, the director of community preparedness and resilience in the DC Department of Health, led a spirited conversation with a small group of SW community residents on Thursday, Oct. 16 at Amidon-Bowen Elementary School. The activity was held to mark International Disaster Day, which serves as a landmark date to encourage local communities to mobilize among themselves and learn more about how they can strengthen the capacity of their community to withstand the effects of potential disasters.
The Southwest Neighborhood Assembly’s Youth Activities Task Force and Emergency Preparedness Task Force hosted the community discussion, and members of FEMA Corps who work at FEMA headquarters helped with the planning and logistics. FEMA Corps was created by the Obama administration to provide 10-month-long work opportunities for 18 to 24-year-olds in the field of disaster preparedness, response, and recovery.
The thrust of the discussion revolved around the differences between “disaster preparedness” and a community that is “disaster resilient”. The former focuses on encouraging individuals and families to build disaster-ready kits at home, work, and in their vehicles in order to care for themselves and loved ones — including pets — in the immediate aftermath of a disaster before local fire and rescue can reach them, and to develop family communications plans. A “disaster resilient community” is one where community members take the initiative to meet together to discuss what the risks are in their community and what ways the community can plan together based on existing social networks to strengthen their capacity or ability to bounce back after a disaster.
What is seen increasingly around the country is that communities that meet together in a very inclusive manner to have meaningful planning discussions, organize practical disaster response training, and establish linkages to their local government emergency management offices, local Red Cross, and other voluntary agencies are far more likely to respond and recover effectively after a disaster hits their community.
The planning team worked hard to spread the word about this activity in the local community and is determined to keep this newfound momentum going as we strive together to build a strong disaster preparedness foundation in Southwest DC. Indeed, the team is inspired to be an example to other communities and neighborhoods in the District and make this great city a disaster resilient city bar none.
The following interesting link shows how this local Southwest disaster preparedness activity shows up on the United Nations International Disaster Day list of activities: http://www.preventionweb.net/english/professional/trainings-events/events/v.php?id=39873
Please stay tuned for follow up activities to be hosted by SWNA. Also, please take a look at the following two websites to learn more about both disaster preparedness and disaster resilience: www.ready.gov and http://doh.dc.gov/resilience
By: Ben Curran
SWNA Emergency Preparedness Task Force


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