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Sonoma County Gazette
Map Your neighborhood (MYN) was established in the Washington State Emergency management © KuAnn K. Johnson PHD. Image:
Map Your neighborhood (MYN) was established in the Washington State Emergency management © KuAnn K. Johnson PHD. Image:

Ready for Anything

Taking Emergency Preparation 
Into Our own Hands

Jul 13, 2019
by Vesta Copestakes


At a recent community meeting, a woman spoke in frustration...

“Why do we expect public services to take care of what we should take care of ourselves?

She’s part of a community group who is taking emergency preparation into their own hands. In an emergency, of any kind, there are only so many First Responders available. They will be busy. 

Map Your Neighborhood (MYN) & Citizens Organized to Prepare for Emergencies (COPE)
are systems people are adopting because it puts them in charge of their own needs and lives. 

Local governments are supporting this effort by hiring an educational leader who holds classes for neighborhod leaders and also will come to local meetings to help guide people through the process of being prepared for any emergency...

fire, flood, and earthquakes.

These systems are being adopted across the country as Climate Change brings the consequences of extreme weather. Being prepared saves lives.

Taking matters into our own hands means more people survive any disaster.  

After the October 2017 fires, people realized how little they were prepared for anything. Even a simple Go Bag wasn’t easy to grab so people fled home with nothing. They were dependent upon emergency services and support for everything from clothing to food and shelter. When they returned home they owned nothing. When insurance companies asked for proof of what they needed replaced, they had no proof. No photographs, no receipts, no documents of any kind.

These have been painful lessons to those who went through the disaster. What Emergency Preparedness groups hope to accomplish is to mitigate this suffering in any way possible.

The following article was written by Skip Jirrels, hired by the City of Sebastopol to help West County residents set up MYN groups. The Cities of Santa Rosa and Petaluma are using the COPE system and are reaching out to residents to set up systems with their assistance. 

If you are in unincorporated areas, take matters into your own hands by using the materials provided by MYN and COPE to guide you through the process of self-sufficent emergency preparedness.

COPE & MYN Resources:


Santa Rosa Fire department:


Healdsburg - Fitch MNountain Association:


Interactive Emergency Maps:

These maps were developed to serve two purposes:

1. To direct residents and visitors within Sonoma County to essential services in the event of a natural or man-made disaster,

2. To enhance coordination and information sharing between federal, state, and local agencies, their departments, and special districts operating within Sonoma County.

Please note:  These maps are dynamic and will update automatically depending on the nature of the emergency and the guidance provided by your governmental leaders.

Smaller is Better

Most people agree that the smaller the group the better. It becomes cumbersome to help people too far from your home base, so knowing the elderly woman in a wheelchair at the end of the block, or the brand new infant next door, or the single mother with three children who doesn’t have enough arms to protect her brood…small neighborhood groups can be more efficient and therefore more effective than large groups.

Over the next few months we will continue this series on information you can use to prepare for any enmergency. Any input from readers is welcome. 

As summer progresses into high fire season, we want to be ready. But keep in mind...we have had intense fire, high flood waters, and an earthquale is inevitable at some point. Be ready for any and all emergencies.

What skills do you have??
Sebastopol’s Map Your Neighborhood Program

By Skip Jirrels

One definition of an emergency is when we (you or I or someone we are near) are overwhelmed by a situation. The situation is beyond our immediate ability to respond to or correct in the moment(s) it is happening. In many such situations we simply don’t know what to do. In the 2017 book, “The Ostrich Paradox: Why We Underprepare For Disasters” Meyer and Kunreuther state, with RARE THREATS for which we have LITTLE EXPERIENCE.”

One way of enhancing our onboard abilities would be to devise a plan to identify those threats, learn some basic steps to adequately respond to them and gain experience in implementing these steps.

The Sebastopol Map Your neighborhood (MYN) program provides a simple 9 step planning tool to address enhancing our response abilities and doing so based not in our well established reliance on individualism but in the basic geographic area we spend most of our time - our immediate neighborhood.

In the New York Times 2018 article, “The Neighborhood Is the Unit of Change”, columnist David Brooks says,

“It could be that the neighborhood, not the individual, is the essential unit of social change. If you’re trying to improve lives, maybe you have to think about changing many elements of a single neighborhood, in a systematic way, at a steady pace.”

An important lesson gleaned from being alive for almost any length of time is you can’t do it all by yourself. As important as individualism and taking responsibility for “self” is, most of us live in community with others. And the standard unit in community is the neighborhood.

In west county, a neighborhood could be 4 houses on a country lane or 20 houses on one block in town. Using the MYN program as a planning tool allows you (and your neighbors) to define the neighborhood as you choose - whatever size allows for the most effective communication. Organizing and implementing the MYN program will help you to work together and learn how to protect your families, friends and property.

MYN neighborhood participants will:

• Learn the “9 Steps” each household and neighborhood can take to be prepared

• Identify the skills and equipment each neighbor has that would be useful

• Create a Neighborhood Map identifying the shut-off locations for the gas, electric and water (wells too) of each house

• Create a confidential contact list to help identify needs and skills within the neighborhood. And to catalogue equipment, tools and supplies that are available incase of an emergency.

• Learn how to work together as a team to evaluate your neighborhood during the first hour after a disaster

One definition of a disaster is when all the resources typically available by calling 911
are overwhelmed and not available to help us. 

If we are not in the immediate area of the disaster, we are likely dealing with levels of emergency that, in many instances, can be anticipated through proactive collaborative effort, planned for using simplified steps and responded to in tested ways that can be profound to all participating.

Our area is anticipated to experience a hot and dry summer. Many talk about there no longer being a “fire season” but simply an on-going susceptibility to high fire danger. Whether we actually experience a fire in our immediate area or not, we could be impacted by loss of electric power for extended periods during planned power shut-offs THIS SUMMER. This is an emergency situation that is clearly identified and anticipated ahead of time, can be planned for and can be responded to in ways that remove or reduce impacts to you, your family and neighborhood.

Although the  Map Your Neighborhood  program does not address such power shut-offs directly, it does provide the tools for you to collaborate and identify the issues you might experience and helps you plan what you, your family and your neighbors might do to move through it with minimal impact. These high-probability, low-impact power shut-offs are excellent opportunities for you to work with your family and your neighbors in planning and responding together.

We never know when a real disaster may strike in our immediate area, but we do know being prepared is the first step toward a better outcome. Your efforts implementing the MYN program in your neighborhood in anticipation of losing power for extended periods can help provide the resources needed to make your neighborhood ready for any disaster.

Map Your neighborhood (MYN) was established in the Washington State Emergency management © KuAnn K. Johnson PHD . Copies of the guide can be purchased in quantities from 5 to 250 to share with your neighbors. (the more you buy the less expensive they are. Ex. 250 costs 40¢ each)  They are also available in Spanish: or 360-664-4343



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