First Steps

Basic Elements of Preparedness for Lodges and Organizations

Every lodge or other community organization has its own needs, traditions and possibilities, as we’ve mentioned already. There are certain things, though, that just about any organization can and should do in order to prepare for the possibility of difficult times. This page lists some simple, inexpensive, and important things you and your group can do to get ready.

1 – First Aid

One of the easiest, quickest, and least expensive steps you can take to prepare yourselves for potential crises is to make sure that your meeting place has an adequate first aid kit, and people who know how to use it. First aid kits can be purchased from many drugstores, from outdoor sporting goods stores, and from military surplus stores and catalogs. Having one on hand means that in the event of a natural disaster or an ordinary, everyday accident, you’ll have the tools and supplies you need to treat injuries
until help arrives. Make sure you have a large enough kit for the number of people you may be helping; a large organization or a hall with several meeting rooms might consider having more than one kit.

The other part of the equation is to make sure that there are people in your organization who have learned how to administer first aid. Red Cross organizations in nearly every community offer first aid and CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) classes,and these are a good place to start. These classes take only a few hours, and cost very little – sometimes nothing at all. Depending on the size of your organization and meeting place, you may even be able to sponsor a class for your members right at your own hall. In
many cases, having every active member of your organization certified for first aid and CPR is a worthwhile goal to aim for. Some of your members might want to go on to take advanced first aid classes as well.

2 – Three Day Disaster Supplies

The Red Cross recommends that every family have a disaster supplies kit that will provide food, water, and necessary supplies for three days. This same rule can be applied to lodges and other community organizations. Many lodges and churches, and some other organizations, own solidly made older buildings that can make good disaster shelters in many emergencies. If your organization can take care of its own members in the immediate aftermath of a disaster, that takes a substantial burden off the community as a whole.

The basic ingredients for a three-day disaster kit include three gallons of water per person; a three-day supply of non-perishable food that doesn’t need refrigeration or cooking; non-electric can opener; dishes and utensils for serving and eating; battery-powered radio and flashlight, with extra batteries and bulb; plastic sheeting; “duck tape”; tools for emergency repairs; a portable toilet or a five gallon bucket with a tight lid; plastic garbage bags and twist ties; toilet paper and other sanitary supplies; cots or other bed substitutes; and blankets or sleeping bags. Set up your kit to handle the number of people (members and their families) who are likely to be able to make it to the hall in the event of a disaster. If there are likely to be infants, disabled people, or other people with special needs in the group, their needs should also be reflected in the disaster kit.

If your group is of any size, getting all of this at once may be a little expensive. Fortunately, even having part of a disaster kit on hand can make things much easier in the aftermath of a disaster, so it makes sense to buy things as you can afford them. Start with permanent supplies like blankets and tools, and build from there. You can also ask members to contribute items on their own. Most people can afford to put ten dollars a month into preparedness; if there are twenty people working together on the project at that rate, it doesn’t take long to put together a very substantial disaster kit.

The food and water should be replaced regularly to keep it in good condition. One lodge that is working with the Stormwatch Process buys a new stock of food each year, and donates the last year’s stock to the local food bank to help feed hungry people in the community. In this way, everybody benefits from the process.

3 – Communications

One of the things you’ll need to be able to do in the event of a disaster is to contact your organization’s local membership, to find out whether anyone is in need of help. The same thing goes for some of the less sudden sources of trouble discussed elsewhere on this site. A phone list or yearbook listing the name, address, phone number, and email address of all current members is a good start, and as long as phone lines stay up and running. a list of this sort will do the job.

In the aftermath of many disasters, on the other hand, phones and Internet service may be down for days at a time. You’ll need to have some sort of fallback plan for getting in touch with members. One good option, if many of your members live in the same neighborhoods, is to make sure that members know how to get to each other’s homes. In the event of a disaster, some central location can be used as a meeting place, and members who are in good physical shape can be assigned to check on elderly or physically disabled members who may not be able to get there. If your membership is clustered in the same neighborhood as your hall, of course, that offers the best possible option for a meeting site.

Another option that may be worth exploring is amateur radio. Many lodge organizations sponsor “ham radio” clubs, and the members of these groups can let you know what’s available. With a little training and not very much money, an amateur radio operator can contact people across miles and continents — it’s even possible for computers to connect with each other via amateur radio. Battery-powered amateur radio equipment can be used to bring widely scattered members into contact, and to link together different branches of an organization.

4 – Energy Saving Measures

One thing that seems increasingly likely is that energy is going to become more expensive as time goes on. Recent surges in the price of gasoline, heating oil, and natural gas came as unpleasant surprises to people who thought that the energy crunch of the 70s was a thing of the past. Many lodges and other community organizations own old buildings that are poorly insulated, and rising energy prices could quickly become a major burden.

Fortunately there are easy and inexpensive solutions to many energy problems. Most of them were thoroughly tested during the last energy crisis, and are ready to be put to use in the next one. Storm windows, caulk around window frames and other places of air seepage, heavy curtains or insulated window covers, and similar measures can make even an old building hold heat much more efficiently.  A thermostat timer to turn down the heat when people aren’t using the hall is another good idea. Low-wattage light bulbs can cut your electricity costs significantly. Insulation blankets around hot water heaters can do the same to your hot water costs. If your organization has a little more money, double-paned windows and insulation can be put in to maximize these gains even further.

Many city and county governments have programs to help people learn how to conserve energy, and some provide grants or low-interest loans to help pay for energy-saving improvements. Many lodge organizations also have funds at the state or provincial level that can be used for building improvements. The sooner you make use of these and other resources, and improve your building’s energy efficiency, the better off you’ll be.

5 – Resources and Traditions

If your lodge or organization has been around for more than a few decades, odds are it has members who recall what things were like in less prosperous times. Even if all the “old-timers” have passed away, there may be information in old books and minutes, or in organizational newsletters or newspapers, about the way things were done. This is an important resource, and one that should never be neglected.

If you have members who were around during the Depression or World War II, ask them about what your organization did to deal with the shortages and difficulties of that time. If you have members who were active in the energy crisis of the 70s, ask them about that. Many different approaches were used for dealing with hard times by community groups in the past. There’s no need to reinvent the wheel if your older members can tell you how it was done!

Many lodges and other organizations have, or once had, specific programs to help their members deal with hardship. Now is the time to find out what those are, dust them off, and get them back in working order. If your organization had an emergency fund that was used to help members in financial straits, or scheduled monthly potluck suppers to help everyone make ends meet, look into what it would take to get those going again.