Mayor Mike McGinn announced in May that the Seattle Office of Emergency Management (OEM) and Seattle Department of Neighborhoods (DoN) have been awarded $35,000 from the FEMA Community Resilience Innovation Challenge. The cash award will establish community emergency preparedness “Hubs” in selected P-Patch community gardens in southeast Seattle, in addition to providing training and outreach tools for gardeners and community members of diverse communities.
“This award will help us provide more locations for community members to go in case of an emergency,” said McGinn. “But more importantly, it provides us more resources to work directly with the gardeners of diverse languages and cultures and empower them to help their neighbors. In times of crisis, community networks are more important than ever.”
The funds will focus on 8-12 community gardens in southeast Seattle to serve as Community Emergency Hubs, places where residents can gather, share information and resources, and problem-solve after an emergency. Kits with basic supplies (First Aid kit, canopy, signage, etc.) will be stored in the gardens’ tool sheds. Gardeners will be trained in their language, and create a plan to activate their Hub and do outreach to the neighborhood. It is expected that nearly 5000 people will be reached through the efforts that start in these community gardens.
“Placing emergency Hubs in P-Patch community gardens is a unique and creative approach to connecting people,” said Bernie Matsuno, director of DoN. “As natural places for people to gather, P-Patches are safe, are stewarded by the gardeners, and serve as the perfect place for community members to be trained, have resources, and be prepared in the case of an emergency.”
The program is expected to serve approximately 350 gardening families, with a diversity of 12 languages and cultures including Amharic, Filipino, Somali, Tigrinya, Chinese, English, Hmong, Mien, Lao, Thai, Vietnamese, and Spanish. Translation and interpretation services will be a key component of this program.
“In emergencies, we want to make sure that all people are prepared,” said Barb Graff, director of OEM. “The funds will not only provide interpretation and translation, but will also create templates of translated materials and a trained bank of community gardeners and others who will use their own language to orient others within their cultural community. Developing this grassroots approach and resource will make a considerable impact on emergency preparation.”
The FEMA 2012 Community Resilience Innovation Challenge, in partnership with the Rockefeller Foundation, focuses on identifying and supporting best practices that strengthen community resilience, especially as it pertains to emergencies. As one of 30 awards selected from more than 1900 applications, the city’s proposal was selected for its innovation, community stakeholder collaboration, sustainability, repeatability, and measurable benefits to the community.
Planning and selection of P-Patch community gardens will occur this summer, and the program will be implemented this fall. For more information about the program, contact Tracy Connelly (OEM) at 206-233-5076 or Julie Bryan (DoN) at 206-684-0540.