Living in a small rural town means conversations over the dairy case at Jack's, greetings at the post-office, and catching up while grabbing a scone at Bailey's.

It also means taking self-reliance seriously.

When the National Guardsmen and women arrived to assist after the Big Blow, they had to talk to us locals even to find the neighborhood fire stations. And who else but a local is going to know which roads cut through from Sandridge to Vernon and how to find Great Aunt Dobbie tucked away in Sunset Sands.

When the power went out, the folks with the generators rotated around to keep everyone's freezers frozen and to get the gas pumps going. We all pulled together because small town living is also about being a good neighbor.

But let's be honest - we are already getting complacent again.

If the Eye of the Storm taught us anything, it is that in order to be better prepared next time we need more communication. So let's not slide into old habits and go back to the status quo.

Do you know your neighbors? Who does have the generator? Who can assist in a medical emergency? And where are the elders or children who might need special attention in the next crisis?

One of the tools available for neighborhood intelligence gathering is a nifty little packet of information called "Map Your Neighborhood." I've been fiddling with it for the last couple days and I can verify that it is simple to use and puts all in one place the basics for how to keep yourself and your neighbors safe in an emergency.

"Map Your Neighborhood" is a computer CD and package of written materials that explains what every household will need in an emergency. It also helps you and your neighbors inventory the skills, equipment, and knowledge resident where you live.

It allows you to capture - house by house - "who knows what, who has what, and who can do what." It simplifies the process of creating a neighborhood map and contact list.

Yes, I know that some of us arrived and decided to stay on the peninsula because it's easy to find a place to hole up and quietly go on about our business. But this mapping process looks pretty painless to me - and, frankly, it could make the difference between life and death.

Jeanne Ellevold and Sandy Thanes, The Committee of Two, took up the reponsibility in their neighborhood. A few more of us need to rise to the challenge. As this mapping materials says: Neighborhoods that are prepared for emergencies and disaster situations save lives, reduce the severity of injuries and trauma, and reduce property damage. In addition, working together as a team and contributing as an individual develops stronger communities and improves the quality of life in the community.

So let's keep the momentum going and not forget that Dwight D. Eisenhower quote (tweaked just slightly): In preparing for an emergency "... I have always found that plans are useless, but planning is indispensable."

To get a copy of this handy neighborhood emergency resource, call Stephanie Fritts at 642-9340 or 360-875-9340.

In other Eye of the Storm news, and in response to last week's focus on trees, several Storm-Troopers are planning Arbor Day activities for the Peninsula.

Arbor Day is a national day of tree-planting that was started in 1872 in Nebraska by J. Sterling Morton. Our Washington State Legislature has designated the second Wednesday in April as our day to tend to trees.

So, keep your eyes here as our Peninsula Arbor Day plans shape up.

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