Seattle Neighborhoods Actively Prepare

SNAP LogoIn the Puget Sound area we can experience a variety of disasters from weather related floods and power outages to single family fires or  a moderate or a major earthquake. We also know that our normal daily lives can be severely disrupted and services we are used to getting (clean water, electricity, natural gas, phone and internet, fire and police response) will be very limited to non-existent. That is why we encourage people to not only prepare themselves and their families, but to talk to their neighbors about how they will work together to make sure everyone in the neighborhood is safe and cared for.  

The City of Seattle has created the Seattle Neighborhoods Actively Prepare (SNAP) program to help your neighborhood get organized. There is an online toolkit that provides practical step-by-step instructions on organizing as a neighborhood. If you want, the Office of Emergency Management can come out to your home and help your neighborhood get organized. SNAP is a simple and flexible process that can be customized to meet the needs of your neighborhood. For more information about SNAP or to schedule a SNAP meeting, call 206-233-5076 or  email us at SNAP@seattle.gov.

What is SNAP?

Simply put, SNAP is a group of neighbors who have agreed to work together following a big disaster. Some neighborhoods like to have a very formal plan, with assigned roles and tasks, while other are more spontaneous, leaving specific assignments to the day of the disaster. There is no right or wrong way to organize. The way you do it really depends on the neighborhood "personality". 

Regardless of how you organize there are some easy steps you can take to get everyone on the block thinking about disaster preparedness. 

How do I organize my neighborhood?

Becoming a SNAP neighborhood is an easy 3 step process.  The Office of Emergency Management is happy to help you at each step of the way. We have a host kit that provides you with everything you will need to get the word out to your neighbors. We can also come out and talk with your neighbors about being prepared and what kinds of hazards our area is prone to. Lastly, we have a number of skill based classes that will teach you the three basic things you need to do following a disaster. Which ever way you decide to do it, getting neighbors together to talk about how you will support one another is the first and most important step in this process. 

Step 1: Getting together

The first part of the SNAP process is to invite your neighbors, family and friends to prepare with you. This is like creating a "disaster team." If you have a neighborhood association or block watch, then you already have a good start on this part. Remember, the SNAP program is flexible in the number of people or households on your team. It's a little easier if you live within a few blocks of each other, but that's not a requirement. Ideally, 10 to 20 homes make a very manageable and efficient group.

Once you have identified your team, set a meeting date to talk about preparing together. To help you with this part, we've created SNAP Host Kit with a checklist sample agenda for your first meeting, a flyer you can fill-in and copy for your neighbors, a sign-in sheet for your meeting and preparedness materials for you and your neighbors.

Step 2: Getting organized

Now that you have gotten your neighbors together the next step is deciding how to organize. There are a few basics that we encourage all neighborhoods to do, from there you can customize depending on the neighborhood's needs:

  • Choose a Neighborhood Coordinator (or Co-Coordinators) - The coordinator(s) will be the leaders on the day of the disaster. They will ensure that the plan is being followed and problems are being solved safely and effectively.

  • Identify a neighborhood Meeting Place - This is the spot where everyone will meet following the disaster. This meeting place should be centrally located and easy to get to. It could be someone's front yard, the end of a cul-de-sac or at a park or open area within the neighborhood.

  • Identify a First-Aid location - This should be near the neighborhood meeting place.

  • Distribute and explain the Help/Okay signs - It is important that everyone understands that the signs are a communications tool for the neighborhood program only. Police and fire responders will not know to look for, nor will they respond to a Help/Okay sign in the window.

  • Create a map of the neighborhood identifying the houses participating, the neighborhood meeting place, the first aid location and the location of the homes with natural gass meters (and their locations).

The goal following a disaster is to Help People and Protect Property.  In order to do this it is important to have a leader who is responsible for directing the efforts and thinking about keeping everyone safe.  There 3 priorities following a disaster.  They are:

  1. Controlling utilities and putting out small fires- Controlling your utilities is the top priority following a major disaster. The three utilities you need to think about are water, electricity and gas. For detailed information on how to control each of this see Utility Control & Fire Suppression.  Small fires need to be addressed before they turn into big ones.  Everyone should have at least one fire extinguisher in their home.  If they do not need it, place it at the end of the sidewalk or driveway so others in the neighborhood have quick access if they need it.

  2. Light Search and Rescue - This comes after controlling the utilities and fires since you want to make sure that your search and rescue team can do their job safely.  Light Search and Rescue involves a systematic process for looking for trapped people.  NEVER attempt to enter a damaged building by yourself.  

  3. First Aid  - The third priority is dealing with injuries. Setting up a first aid station in the neighborhood will help to manage the first aid response and provide a safe place for both victims and first aid team.

The second part of the response has to do with taking care of people once the initial tasks have been done. This could include identifying who needs a place to stay, if those people with special needs are okay, deciding the best way to communicate and get information, and beginning the processes of assessing the damages to the neighborhood.  It is important to remember that an organized neighborhood multiplies its resources and skills. Take the opportunity to identify the special skills that exist around you and what areas you may need to get additional training in. Then take the next step. To download all the Getting Organized information click here.

Step 3: Getting Confident 

Now comes the most important (and fun) part of SNAP.  PRACTICE! If you don't practice the chances of your plan working on the day of the disaster goes down dramatically. Practicing will let people try out their roles, identify equipment that might make their jobs easier and give everyone a bit of confidence!

There are lots of ways to practice, from formal drills, to having a neighborhood block party and setting up "disaster" stations for everyone to practice.  Drills can be fun and will give you an opportunity to see if you need skill building to make the group stronger.  If you are interested in doing a formal drill, we have a Drill Toolkit that will help you with setting it up. We encourage you to start simple and work up to more complex drills as you build the confidence of the group. The toolkit includes tips on how to organize and conduct an effective drill, some scenarios and objectives for the drill and some direction for evaluating it once you have completed the drill. If you do a drill please share your results with us. You can send your information to snap@seattle.gov

Download Materials

Getting Together

Getting Organized

Getting Confident

How do I register as a SNAP neighborhood?

Seattle Neighborhoods Actively Prepare (SNAP) Neighborhood Registration SNAP registration is part of the recommended communications plan that begins with the first SNAP meeting. Choose a Neighborhood Coordinator and a Point of Contact for your neighborhood and complete the contact information requested in the form for each. These two people will be on our e-mail distribution list for receiving newsletters, program updates and class announcements. It will be the responsibility of the Coordinator and Point of Contact to redistribute the information to the SNAP neighbors. This is the primary mode of communication between the SNAP neighborhood groups and the Seattle Office of Emergency Management (OEM).

The information gathered in the form will also help the Seattle OEM track the locations of SNAP neighborhoods throughout the City.

If you prefer to use US Mail, please download the SNAP Meeting Sign-In Sheet, complete the information on the form and mail it to: Seattle Office of Emergency Management, Attention SNAP Program, 105 5th Ave South, Seattle, WA 98104.

SNAP Registration Form

Neighborhood Communications Plan:
To complete your neighborhood communications plan, collect contact information from your neighbors and friends who have agreed to be part of your SNAP neighborhood. The SNAP Meeting Sign-In Sheet can be used to help gather contact information for your group. Have each neighbor complete the contact information on the form and create your own distribution list for your neighborhood. Arrange for neighbors who don't have internet to receive copies of the information. This can be done by "buddying up" a neighbor who has a computer with someone who doesn't.

How the plan works: Class announcements and other information will come from Seattle OEM to the Neighborhood Coordinator and the Point of Contact, who will then use their neighborhood communications plan to distribute the information to their group.

Test your communications plan.
Send out a test message to be sure that you have copied the e-mail addresses correctly. Once you have tested your communications plan and made any necessary changes, you are ready to use it to for sending out your next meeting announcement and forwarding future OEM updates!