The Stormwatch Process

Ten Steps Toward Preparedness

Every lodge or other community organization has its own unique blend of resources, traditions, and possibilities. There’s no point in trying to prescribe a single approach for so wide a variety of situations. Instead, we propose what systems theory calls a heuristic – that is, a process by which different groups can identify the potential problems they face, and work out solutions they can apply. The particular system we’ve worked out for doing this is called the Stormwatch Process.

The Stormwatch Process consists of ten phases or steps. It’s a good idea to go through them in order, at least at first. Later, as your organization learns its way around the Process, it’ll become possible to move back and forth from step to step, to resolve issues as they come up and get things done.

PHASE ONE: S tart by setting up a committee to oversee the Process. In a small group, the “committee” may consist of the entire membership. Most of the time,
though, there will be some people who are interested in preparedness and willing to do the work, and others whose interests and energies are aimed in other directions. This isn’t a problem – indeed, it’s one of the strengths on which all voluntary groups draw – but it does mean that those people who decide to take on the management of the process should realize that they’re going to do much of the work themselves. It’s best to have a Preparedness Committee formally appointed in whatever way your organization handles such things, and to handle all committee business according to the usual rules and procedures.

PHASE TWO: T alk about the potential problems your lodge and your community may face, and the resources your lodge can bring to bear on these problems. This is best done at a series of informal committee meetings. The first step is to come up with as many possible problems as the committee members can
think of; the standard “brainstorming” approach, where a large sheet of paper is taped up on the wall and ideas are written down as they come up, is a good way to handle this. Put down anything,and don’t forget to include the “little” issues; a sharp rise in heating costs, if your lodge isn’t prepared for it, can put you out of business as effectively as a massive earthquake or a nuclear bomb. Later, once you’ve scoped out the entire range of possibilities, try to sort them out in order of the chance that they’ll occur in the next ten years. Then do the same for the next fifty years. At this point, you’re ready to begin talking about the resources your organization has available, and what your committee can do (for example, in terms of fundraising) to expand those resources. Finally, talk about what the organization could do with its resources to prepare for the problems
in a way that will help its members and the community as a whole come through them in better shape. Some groups will have the members and resources to make a major impact on community-wide problems, while others will have to work to take care of their own members. Either approach is worth pursuing – even if your organization can only help its own members, that will take a burden off the authorities in the event of a disaster or other crisis, and free up resources that can go to help others.

PHASE THREE: O rganize the results into a list of specific projects your lodge can take on, listed in order of priority. This is the step where the rubber really meets the road. From the lists of potential problems and resources, you need to work out a set of concrete, practical, effective things that your organization can do. These don’t have to be big projects, and in fact it’s often best to start out with relatively small and simple steps – buying a first aid kit, setting up a membership phone list, looking into storm windows, and the like – and move on to larger things later on. Ranking the projects in order of priority is another important phase that should be done at this point. The easier and less expensive a project is, the sooner it’s likely to be necessary, and the more lives and property value it can save, the higher on the priority list it should probably go – but it may take a certain amount of horse trading among committee members to balance out these three conflicting factors and come up with a single list.

PHASE FOUR: R eport back to the lodge at a regular meeting, and propose the first item on the list. The best way to tackle the projects on your list is one at a
time, and the best way to tackle them effectively is to make sure that the active members of your organization are behind each project as it comes up. Bringing it up as an item of business at a regular meeting, and getting a vote of approval from the members present, is a good way to be sure of this. Go to the meeting with all the details – how much the project will cost, how long it will take, what it will accomplish, who will be doing the work, and so on. Be prepared to outline the committee’s discussions so far, and to explain why you think this project is the best use of part of the organization’s resources at this time. If you’ve done your homework, present your case fairly, and propose something that’s comfortably within the reach of your organization, you’re likely to get a favorable response. If you don’t, find out what the objections are – does the project cost too much, does it fail to address issues that the other members raise,
or do most of the members simply think it’ll never be needed? Take this into account, revise your list accordingly, and come back to another meeting later on with a new proposal.

PHASE FIVE: M ake good on your promises by getting the project done on time and within budget.
This is critical. The members of your organization who aren’t on the committee have trusted you with lodge resources, and they will be watching to see how you use them. If you’ve done your homework, again, you should be able to carry out the first project as planned. When the other members see that the committee can manage funds and projects efficiently, they’ll be more likely to entrust you with more funds and more projects.

PHASE SIX: W hen it’s done, report back to the lodge again, discuss the project and its results, and propose the next item on the list. Regular reports to the organization are an important part of the feedback process that keeps the committee and the rest of the organization working together. Each time you report, you should be able to point to something constructive that’s been accomplished, cover the lessons that you’ve learned and the results of the work, and outline where the committee would like to go next. Be ready to discuss the priorities of the projects on your list; different people will rate these in different ways, and there will be times when
the other members will ask that a given project be moved up or down on the list. It’s almost always best to cooperate with this, since the committee needs to retain the good will of all the members, and since all the projects on the list presumably need to be done sooner or later anyway!

PHASE SEVEN: A ssess potential problems, resources, and projects at regular intervals, in order to keep abreast of changing conditions. Your committee should always be ready to revisit Phase Two’s work of looking for potential problems and coming up with possible responses. The world is a complicated place, and problems that seem distant or minor at one point in time can take on a very different appearance as times and circumstances change. Equally, your organization’s resources may change as new members join, policies change, and projects are accomplished. Always be ready to take such shifts into account. At the very least, the committee should schedule a meeting once every three to six months where the only item of business is looking over the old lists of problems, resources, and projects, and seeing whether these need to be updated.

PHASE EIGHT: T rain committee members in useful skills, and share that training with any other members of the lodge who are willing to learn. Developing skills usually takes a relatively long-term investment of time, and often of money, so it may not be among the early items on your project list. Still, as you work your way through the Stormwatch Process, one goal to aim for is a core of organization members who have crucial skills. First aid training is one example, and it’s something that can be learned quickly and easily through classes offered by the Red Cross and similar sources. As your organization moves toward greater preparedness, skills training may become a larger and larger part of the day-to-day functioning of the organization; for example, your group may start hosting first aid or earthquake preparedness seminars for its members or the entire community.

PHASE NINE: C ontact sources of information in the public and private sectors to find out what other groups and individuals are doing, and what they may have to offer.  In some cases this step is best done earlier on, but your organization will have more credibility if it’s already made concrete practical moves in the direction of preparedness. Many cities, counties, and states or provinces have emergency preparedness programs in place; they can pass on useful information and give you access to hard-to-find resources. There is also a galaxy of private organizations involved in various stages and kinds of preparedness, from the Red Cross all the way to so-called “prepper” groups, which can broaden your perspectives and put you in touch with information and resources you may not be able to find on your own.

PHASE TEN: H elp other groups in your own organization and in your community to begin making preparations, and work together with them on projects for the good of the community as a whole. If you belong to a lodge, odds are there are other lodges of the same order nearby, and some of them may have members that would be interested to hear about what you’re doing. If you belong to some other kind of community organization, the same thing may apply. Let them know! Don’t hesitate to make contact with local groups belonging to different orders and organizations, either. A network of lodges, churches, social clubs, and other organizations, all making active preparations and all helping their members to carry out their own preparedness projects, could build a community that would be all but invulnerable to disaster. And if your group has a website or web page, we’d appreciate it if you would consider posting a link to the Stormwatch Project website, to direct other people to a source of information and ideas we hope you’ve found useful.