One of the core elements of a resilient community is strong social capital amongst neighbors. When a major disaster occurs, first responders such as police and firefighters may not have the ability to reach every neighborhood immediately. In that event, it is crucial that neighbors are well-acquainted and have a plan in place to assist one another until first responders arrive. Though there are many barriers to effectively fostering neighborhood resilience in disaster-prone areas, the Los Angeles Emergency Management Department (EMD) is engaged in a unique initiative aimed at overcoming those barriers and bringing communities together.
Ready Your LA Neighborhood – also known as RYLAN – is a free service that empowers neighborhoods to prepare for whatever unexpected disasters may occur. RYLAN is oriented around six core principles: prepare, organize, practice, connect, communicate, and train. The program provides communities with the tools necessary to respond as a cohesive unit in the immediate aftermath of a disaster before help arrives. The goal is “to reduce injuries, protect your property and the environment, and most importantly, to save lives”.
One of the key features of RYLAN is the Map Your Neighborhood tool, which helps to identify within a given neighborhood the locations of people with relevant skillsets, life-saving equipment, gas meters and other hazardous infrastructure, as well as the locations of vulnerable residents; if we know where our mobility-impaired neighbors live, then we know who to check on first. The first step of RYLAN is for neighbors to get to know each other by organizing a 90-minute community meeting that is also attended by staff from the EMD, who provide the tools and resources to facilitate a preparedness plan.
At the initial meeting, community members are taught to use the Map Your Neighborhood tool, which demands an open discussion between all attendees in order to yield the most detailed map possible. Once the map is completed, neighbors have a straightforward path to create a preparedness plan based on their newly shared knowledge. RYLAN addresses a key principle of community preparedness, which is that the plan itself is secondary to the planning process. While a well-formulated plan is a valuable tool, the true value lies in the practice of neighbors getting to know one another and thinking collectively about both their needs and their capabilities following a sudden disaster. Aside from readying communities for unexpected disruptions, RYLAN also poses the simple benefit of bringing neighbors together and helping people enjoy their communities even more.
The Los Angeles EMD produced a short film about RYLAN featuring Mayor Eric Garcetti, as well as many of the city’s top emergency managers. The six-and-a-half minute video is an excellent and concise source of information for anyone interested in the program. Though the video is tailored for Angelinos, the information provided can help communities in other parts of the country – and even the world – to start thinking practically about fostering resilience from neighbor to neighbor.
Sources and Further Reading
Social capital is a prerequisite for resilience – Tallahassee Democrat
Ready Your LA Neighborhood – Los Angeles Emergency Management Department
RYLAN: Ready Your LA Neighborhood – YouTube