Communities large and small throughout Montana are participating in neighborhood preparedness parties. The community-based approach is a part of the Ready Montana initiative that seeks to engage residents from a wide range of ages into being safer, stronger and better prepared for all types of hazards, including wildfire.
Over the past three years, more than 115 neighborhood parties have taken place in communities of all sizes. One of the largest events was held in Anaconda, a rural community of approximately 3,000 in Western Montana. More than 300 community residents attended the ‘R U Ready’ event, which was organized by Montana State University Extension (Deer Lodge County) in conjunction with community partners that included local emergency responders, public health representatives, faith based groups and more. The event impacted the local economy too - local hardware stores reported an increase in NOAA weather radio purchases and additional emergency supplies.
In contrast to the large, community-wide event held in Anaconda, one of the most unique settings was a neighborhood preparedness party held in Grasshopper Valley, Montana. Grasshopper Valley is an isolated valley that’s the population center for the southwestern part of the state. After seeing a Ready Montana advertisement promoting the parties in their local newspaper, a group of community members took the initiative to gather neighbors and start a dialogue about the need to be prepared and share resources within their remote valley. Twenty residents attended the party and learned how to become better prepared for all types of hazards. The party was a huge hit with attendees and resulted in additional meetings on neighborhood mapping, medical response, and home preparedness.
The parties are designed to be a training tool that encourages participants to build kits that work for the home, workplace and car. Guidance is provided on what items should be included in the kit, such as a first-aid kit, medications, and a battery powered radio. Also provided are Map Your Neighborhood program guides and preparedness checklists for common Montana hazards. In addition, party hosts are encouraged to connect with their local disaster emergency responders, to provide relevant information to attendees. The preparedness party concept was launched by the Governor’s Office of Community Service as part of the Ready Montana initiative. They're an innovative way to encourage Montanans to get a kit, make a plan, be informed, and help their neighbors by providing valuable information.