When the residents of Wallace Ave. in Comox have a block party, they turn it into a learning experience.
On Sunday a section of Wallace Ave. was closed to traffic for a street party – a chance for neighbours to become better acquainted, complete with a potluck supper.
And while there was plenty of socializing during the afternoon, planners took it upon themselves to have a little educational fun.
Rather than bocci, or street hockey, Lois Harvey arranged for an “Emergency Preparedness Relay Race.”
The Harveys are the neighbourhood experts when it comes to such things. Lois worked with the Red Cross in its school program for many years and her husband, Derrick, is the North Island co-ordinator for disaster for the Red Cross.
“We know that we are going to have to depend on each other in this block, if there is a disaster, so if we all make a little effort to be prepared, then we really will be able to help each other out. So that’s why I did the game,” said Lois. “I’ve done it with the Red Cross before – it’s an educational game that they use with the schools program.”
The game’s rules were simple enough.
Two teams line up at one end of the street. At the other end, there is a box full of items.
Participants take turns running from one end to the box at the other. They sift through the box, finding an item they believe should be in an emergency preparedness kit, retrieve it and return to their group.
Once everyone has had a chance to retrieve an item, the “kit” they have amassed is examined and judged, based on its contents.
The kit not only has to be able to withstand the first 72 hours after a disaster, but should contain items that can last up to a year in “pre-disaster storage”.
“There’s a little booklet that the Red Cross puts out talking about the first 72 hours, (Your Emergency Preparedness Guide) which tells you some of the things you need to have; a certain amount of water – two litres to a gallon of water a day per person; matches; a flashlight and batteries; canned foods; can opener, all those kinds of things,” said Harvey.
“Then, for the purpose of the game you also throw in things (into the grab box) like fresh milk containers, boxes of cereal, eggs, things like that, that can get the children thinking about what should go into the preparedness kit and what shouldn’t.”
Harvey said the game was a lot of fun for the parents and children alike, and the important part was that some people learned a valuable lesson.
She was encouraged that a lot of her neighbours already had emergency preparedness kits in their homes.
“About half of our street said they already have one, so that was a really good sign,” she said. “Hopefully we never have to use them, but it’s important not to be without them.”
She is also hopeful that by getting the word out, other neighbourhoods would consider doing a similar exercise during their own block parties.
“I hope other people will do it,” said Harvey. “It was lots of fun and it really built up the community spirit. It was just a little 15-minute segment out of the whole three or four hours, but having one little learning experience really helps to draw your community together as well.”
Red Cross has the booklet available at its Puntledge Road office, and it is also available online at bit.ly/1hQbC0D, in a variety of formats and languages.