Orange County Emergency Services offer 5 Steps program to help neighborhoods prepare for significant disruptions of service

ORANGE COUNTY, NC (September 27, 2017) — Orange County Emergency Services is launching a new disaster preparedness tool specifically geared towards neighborhoods.

Developed by the City of Los Angeles Emergency Management Department, the 5 Steps to Neighborhood Preparedness program is a comprehensive planning tool that guides communities in the development of a neighborhood emergency plan. The award-winning disaster planning tool is being adopted throughout the nation. Orange County is the first entity in North Carolina to officially begin using this program, said Orange County Emergency Services Director Dinah Jeffries.

"During a widespread event, the demand for emergency services will be greater than capacity," said Jeffries. "Our ability to respond will likely be hampered by flooding, downed trees or power lines and washed out roads. If phone services are impacted, residents may not be able to call 9-1-1 to even request help. In these kinds of occurrences, neighbors will likely be on their own until help arrives – which could take up to 72 hours or more in some situations."

At the core of the program is the 5 Steps Toolkit, which enables residents to define their neighborhood, rally and engage community members, and build a customized disaster plan. The program is designed to empower communities to not only address the unique hazards they may face in case of an emergency, but to also create a plan to safely and effectively manage an emergency situation. Emergency Services has developed the online toolkit that includes a toolkit overview, facilitators guide, neighborhood survey, neighborhood meeting flyers, and a plan template.

Cornwallis Hills in Hillsborough has volunteered to serve as a pilot neighborhood and is currently in the planning process.

"Having a neighborhood emergency plan is important to our neighborhood because we are able to meet our own needs, reducing stress and disruption after an incident," said resident Gayane Chambless. "We will be in a better position to target where help is needed most and who may be best to assist in certain circumstances."

"The 5 Steps program and tools we are using to craft our neighborhood plan have been very helpful in organizing our team's thoughts and ideas. It has been a great framework for us to use. The material is easy to follow and understand. It is clear and detailed, yet flexible enough to apply to how our neighborhood works."

Neighborhoods that adopt this program will receive training and support from Orange County Emergency Services, said Emergency Management Coordinator Kirby Saunders. 

"As we have seen recently with the destructive hurricanes that ravaged Texas and Florida and the earthquakes in Mexico, residents must be prepared to assist each other," said Saunders. "This program will give residents a tool by which they can prepare themselves and their neighborhoods to help one another during a major event."

For more information on the 5 Steps to Neighborhood Preparedness program, visit www.5StepsNC.com or contact Michelle K. Belles, Emergency Management Intern, at (919) 245-6126 or email es@orangecountync.gov.