Residents come out to learn about forming block watches SNOHOMISH - The newly formed public safety commission’s block watch meeting last week seemed to be a good learning exercise for everyone involved, both residents and commissioners said.
Police Chief John Flood and Fire Chief Mark Collins led most of the meeting at Snohomish Fire District 4 headquarters, and took questions and comments from the nearly 50 community members present trying to learn how to be involved in protecting their neighborhood from crime and natural disasters.
The most important question for the residents eager to form their own block watch seemed to be: “How do we get started?”
Commission chair Merle Kirkley and Flood agreed that the first thing Snohomish needs to do is define the city’s neighborhoods. Residents can send comments to Kirkley or to Flood with their suggestions.
“We’re not going to do it overnight, but we’ve come a long way,” Kirkley said.
The public safety commission is a seven-member group made up of former city board members and formed in March. The group has recently started holding regular meetings on the second Tuesday of the month at fire headquarters, 1525 Ave. D. The meetings start at 5 p.m.
Flood recommended residents first determine the boundaries of their neighborhood and make a map of it, develop a neighborhood contact list, and establish a reliable method of communication among neighbors, such as a phone tree or an e-mail list.
Morgantown representative Bob McGowan spoke to the audience about the efficient block watch system his neighborhood has developed over the last three years.
Of Morgantown’s 135 houses, 50 are active in the block watch program, which divides the neighborhood into five sections, each section with its own captain. Each house has an assigned number, which is labeled on a map inside a homemade wooden box called a “rally point.”
Morgantown residents worked together to build the five rally points and installed them in each of the neighborhood’s five sections. McGowan said activities like building rally points establishes neighborhood cohesiveness.
“It’s all about building relationships,” McGowan said. “The most important factor is to go for the small steps, being together, drinking coffee.”
McGowan said his block watch started out by having picnics, and then it began to work on cleaning up a park together by washing playground equipment and trimming trees and bushes.
“It took a burden off the city and built relationships,” McGowan said.
Captains take care of their section of the neighborhood as if it were their own, McGowan said, identifying residents who are nurses, engineers, or those in construction who might be able to help out in an emergency. They also identify where the more vulnerable people live, such as the sick or elderly.
Morgantown’s block watch group is all about being prepared, which includes being ready for natural disasters. When called upon to meet at rally points, Morgantown residents leave a fire extinguisher on the curb outside their house. This alerts others that they’re out of the house and provides a tool to combat a fire if need be.
“Emergencies are hard to forecast, because like a thief, you don’t know when they’re going to hit,” McGowan said.
Historic district resident Jason Sanders attended the meeting and seemed eager to follow up with the information he absorbed.
“The first step is to get to know your neighbors and learn to identify things that are a concern,” Sanders said.
He said the meeting was a good reminder to keep an eye out for the young and elderly.
Flood said the commission will begin work on identifying neighborhoods and determining and providing block watch training.
“We want help from the neighbors, we want it to be about you,” Flood said.