Neighbors are always willing to lend a cup of sugar or watch your pets and plants while you’re on vacation. Great neighbors and fellow citizens have your back, no matter what—especially during an emergency. Here are some tips for keeping your community safe, connected, and supplied when tough times strike.

1. START A NEIGHBORHOOD WATCH.

Protect your community during emergencies by organizing a neighborhood watch group. Members hold educational meetings about security and safety issues, report suspicious activities to authorities (they don’t actually intervene), and keep their eyes on the streets—and on each other.

2. START A NEIGHBORHOOD FOOD PANTRY.

Food pantries are a vital resource during natural disasters, but not all communities have access to one. And even if there is a food pantry in your community, it might not be equipped with essentials like fresh produce. The good news is that neighborhoods can start their own pantries, so long as they comply with local and state regulations.

A lawyer or CPA can help organizers figure out how to qualify for nonprofit status (laws differ from state to state, and among organization types), or they could also charge a small fee for foods and use the profits to purchase additional supplies.

3. OFFER YOUR COUCH TO NEEDY NEIGHBORS.

If a flood, fire, or storm spared your property but damaged someone else’s, consider housing your displaced neighbors. Some online marketplaces connect short-term tenants with landlords and will waive service fees for evacuees during emergencies.

Don’t feel comfortable listing your spare bed online? Share it via a community message board, on social media, or at community meetings—or simply give your neighbors a call to tell them your doors are always open.

4. PRACTICE EMERGENCY DRILLS.

A little preparation can go a long way, so community drills shouldn’t be reserved for fires. Ask community officials to organize an event that offers participants the chance to role-play various emergency strategies (or create them if they haven’t done otherwise), and learn best practices for staying safe.

5. DOWNLOAD A NEIGHBORHOOD SOCIAL NETWORK APP.

Receive community news in real time from the most knowledgeable of sources—your neighbors. Various organizations and social networks now offer smartphone apps that allow users to report thefts and break-ins, share crime-prevention tips, find missing pets, and even submit photos, video, audio, and locations of suspicious activity.

6. FOUND A COMMUNITY EMERGENCY RESPONSE TEAM (CERT)

FEMA’s Community Emergency Response Team (CERTs) program—which is sponsored at the local level by elected officials or emergency management—teaches community members basic disaster-response skills, including fire safety, search and rescue initiatives, and emergency medical knowledge. These trained individuals are sometimes deployed during an emergency or disaster until professional first responders can arrive. The training is loosely standardized, but local and state program managers can customize their plans to fit varying regional needs.

7. STOCKPILE YOUR WORKPLACE WITH EMERGENCY SUPPLIES.

Nothing’s certain during a wide-scale emergency—when it will occur, or where it will strike— so it’s smart to be prepared at both home and work. In addition to stockpiling your own pantry with supplies and stashing a go-bag under your desk, look out for your co-workers by asking your employer to stock the office with enough nonperishable items, water, sanitation supplies, and first-aid kits to last for at least a few days.

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