News Feature

Deer Isle
Originally published in Island Ad-Vantages, January 10, 2019
First in emergency preparedness: ‘know your neighbors’

by Anne Berleant

For some, the possibility of a storm-related power outage or other disaster means filling up the bathtub or a few gallon jugs with water and laying hands on that roll of duct tape at the back of the kitchen junk drawer. But as a November 30 community meeting made clear, being prepared for an emergency can and should be a community effort.

Deer Isle resident Ginger Lester did just that on her two-mile stretch of Dow Road in the weeks leading up to the year 2000, when the possibility of a breakdown in computer networks managing everything from utilities to personal computers appeared as a real threat.

“A bunch of us people started talking,” Lester said. “We started meeting at my house and started pulling in all the neighbors on the Dow Road. We just started planning all the way down to if we had any really long-term outages and what we would do.”

Some plans were as simple as using color-coded flags to let neighbors know how things were going inside a residence, and assigning portions of the road for neighbors to walk with an eye out for any emergencies. But much of the plan came from knowing your neighbors. What help might they need? And how could they help others?

“Get to know your neighbors. Know who they are and what they can provide if you need some help,” she said. “It comes down to good old-fashioned communication.”

One Dow Road neighbor owned horses that could be used to help clear roads or evacuate someone in an emergency, Lester said she discovered from going door-to-door. Nurses, doctors, plumbers, electricians, clergy, hunters and firefighters are all neighbors whose skills could be called upon in an emergency.

Lester has created a list of emergency supplies to keep on hand that she shares with any neighbor or community member who wants it. “As Mainers, they’re tough,” she said, but they “love the list.”

Living at the end of a road that feels isolated in winter prompted Lester to focus on worst-case scenarios.

“That’s what spurred me on to think about what if something happened now, that was an outage longer than a couple of weeks,” she said. “We went through a six-day outage last fall—that was a wake up call.”

For more from Lester on emergency preparedness, see Letters on page 4.