Jon Crawford discusses Napa Neighbor Network

Jon Crawford, undersheriff of the Napa County Sheriff's Office, shows off a mockup of the Napa Neighbor Network project during a visit to the Register.

A group of emergency preparedness proponents are urging Napa residents to do the extraordinary: talk to their neighbors.

The valley has endured natural disasters in recent years that left people unsure of where to turn or how to react. So when it came time for Leadership Napa Valley to select a new class of leaders to complete projects that would benefit the community, team members Jon Crawford, Kerri Dorman, Christine Hannah, Angela Hoxsey, Suzi Hubbard and Chris Meza decided to create 750 bright yellow folders, filled with resources that could help residents know what to do in the event of an emergency.

The motto of the project, known as the Napa Neighbor Network, is “stay connected, stay strong,” said Crawford, who is also undersheriff at the Napa County Sheriff’s Office. Law enforcement officers aren’t able to respond to everyone in need of help when a large-scale emergency hits, he said.

“If people know each other before a disaster strikes, and if they’re prepared … they’ll be more resilient and more able to take care of themselves,” Crawford said.

One side of the folder contains Link_vylffadqresources designed to make it easier for people to engage with the community and with their neighbors. It features tips on how to throw a block party and conduct neighborhood meetings, plus suggestions of places local residents can volunteer.

Forging connections with neighbors can be useful during an emergency, when neighbors can pool resources or share skills, Crawford said.

Another side of the folder contains resources compiled from organizations such as the Federal Emergency Management Agency that can help residents who are unsure of what to do in an emergency situation. The group hopes their project will empower people to be less reliant on first responders, Crawford said.

The emergency preparedness documents encourage people to create a disaster plan, pack a bag for emergencies, consider what to do with pets, keep enough food and water for 72 hours and more.

The folder doesn’t just include resources for natural disasters, but has information to help people dealing with personal crises too, said Hubbard, group member and guest services manager of Visit Napa Valley. Packets include phone numbers for services related to mental health and domestic violence.

It also contains information to help people navigate the aftermath of a disaster and move forward, she said.

The group plans to distribute refrigerator magnets with contact information for local agencies and window decals that allow people to mark information about any pets that may have been left behind in a disaster, she said. Jameson Animal Rescue Ranch had 1,000 decals made for the project, Hubbard said.

People shouldn’t wait until disaster strikes to get to know their neighbor, she said. The group sent around an online poll to gauge residents’ level of preparedness and familiarity with each other, she said, and it was clear that people didn’t know their neighbors.

“People are so isolated now,” Hubbard said. “It’s like, ‘I built my fortress and I’m here.’”

As a Visit Napa Valley employee, Hubbard said some residents looking to move to the county are concerned about the natural disasters that struck in recent years. Some even ask employees to help them pick a neighborhood where it’s less likely that they will become victims, should disaster strike.

Hubbard hopes to better inform new residents by distributing the folders at the Napa Valley Welcome Center. The yellow folders — easily spotted among a stack of papers, as Hubbard pointed out — will be available for pickup on April 24, she said.

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Public Safety Reporter

Courtney Teague is the Napa Valley Register public safety reporter. She can be reached at 707-256-2221. You can follow her reporting on Twitter and Facebook, or send her anonymous tip at: tinyurl.com/anonymous-tipbox-courtney.