Neighbors and experts joined the All Hands On Deck – Climate Action & Disaster Preparedness Community Engagement Fair on October 14. Courtesy of the Author.

Courtesy of the Author

By Ben Curran, SW Strong! 

The All Hands On Deck Climate Action & Disaster Preparedness Community Engagement Fair took place on Saturday, October 14 on the grassy lot adjacent to the SW Farmers Market.  

Despite the intermittent light rain, 25 DC-focused environmental, climate-action and disaster preparedness and response organizations participated, making their staff and program information available to the public as they walked among the array of colorful and informative canopies.   

Just a few examples of participating organizations included: DC Amateur Emergency Radio Service, SAMU First Response, the Anacostia Watershed Society, and the Chesapeake Climate Action Network.  

In addition, after a powerful rendition of a Land, Labor and Legacy Acknowledgement by Sherice Muhammad of the Ward 7 Resilience Hub Community Coalition, several topics were covered by speakers including Councilmember Charles Allen; DC Chief Resilience Officer, Melissa Deas; Uwe Brandes, Chair of the DC Climate Commission;  Mark Rodeffer of the Sierra Club DC, Jeffrey Richardson of We The People Community Health Workers; Willie McElroy of Health Best Services, Inc.; James Barbour, DC Baptist Convention; Keith Jones, Ward 8 Woods,  KristinShymoniak, Black Millennials 4 Flint, and Kate Bockover, Chesapeake Climate Action Network.  

Event objectives included:

  • To raise awareness about the urgent need to combat climate change.
  • To encourage people to get better prepared for any kind of disaster in the DC area.
  • To show support for those environmental groups, conservation groups, climate action groups, disaster preparedness and relief groups and local government agencies that are working hard on the front lines.
  • To help the participating organizations with additional volunteers, members and/or resource support.
  • To encourage more collaborative efforts among environmental groups and disaster groups at the local level.
  • To contribute towards building a better community for all of us.

Remarks included warnings of rising temperatures, increased flooding, heavy rains, less predictable weather, and extreme heat; the latter brought home by Melissa Deas in a sad tribute to an athlete friend of hers who died in 2021 from extreme heat. Other major concerns raised are lead poisoning, chronic asthma, the aging infrastructure, and the short amount of time we must get the work done to be carbon neutral by 2045.

On the bright side, we are fortunate to live in a progressive city in terms of resilience planning, resilient building design, climate action, emergency preparedness and response, and proactive leadership, with staff from various DC government offices and multiple nonprofits on the ground doing solid work in various communities.   

Some ongoing and new steps that are making a difference include the continued implementation of the DC Resilience Strategy, a comprehensive and holistic approach to strengthening the foundation of the city to be able to withstand the effects of disasters.  

An example of a new initiative is legislation like the Healthy Homes Act which will make it a priority to transition low and moderate income households off from gas to super-efficient electric heat pumps (essentially an air conditioner in reverse).  

In the emergency preparedness arena, best practices including taking the Community Emergency Response Team training provided by Serve DC, signing up to Alert DC, having an emergency supply kit in your home, your office, and your vehicle, having a communication plan in case of a major emergency so that your family and friends know how to reach you.   

In the Speakers Corner portion of the event, a Southwest resident spoke eloquently about how not to let yourself get paralyzed with fear and inaction as the drastic news of the continued effects of climate change keep coming at us. One must transcend the fear, try to understand the danger but learn what tools are available or help create new ones, and act, and do so out of a place of love and joy along with other people.

SW Strong! thanks Friends of SW DC and the DC Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (DC VOAD) for the grant support to put this event together. We collaborated with leaders from the Ward 7 Resilience Hub Community Coalition, Health Best Services, Inc., and DC VOAD to plan and conduct the event. 

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