In Case of Emergency
When disaster strikes, our neighbors are ready to lend a hand. Poway Neighborhood Emergency Corps (PNEC) is a grassroots volunteer group dedicated to connecting neighbors, educating the community, and planning ahead to keep Poway safe in case of emergency. The organization provides regular educational seminars, emergency supplies, and family-friendly annual events like the Emergency Survival Fair. One of PNEC’s most critical programs is the Neighborhood Emergency Coordinator (NEC) system – volunteers with distinctive lime green buckets and flags trained to disseminate information and aid communication during local emergencies. 92064 Magazine spoke with PNEC President Terri Sorensen to learn more.
Q&A With PNEC President Terri Sorensen
What is PNEC’s mission?
To help Poway residents be prepared for future emergencies. Communities that are prepared tend to recover from emergencies faster. If an individual is prepared, they can help their family be prepared. If a family is prepared they can then help a neighbor be prepared. When neighbors work together with the community it speeds up the recovery time and helps in the healing process for everyone.
What is the history of PNEC? When was it founded, and how has it evolved over the years?
PNEC was started in 2011 by then-City Councilwoman Merrilee Boyack, who gave an all-call for any preparedness or emergency-minded Poway residents to come to an initial meeting to get involved in helping Poway get educated and organized in preparedness efforts. This was after lessons learned while going through the 2003 and 2007 fires, where residents were having difficulties safely evacuating, seeking shelter, and not having preparedness items to help them through those situations, including sheltering in place during those emergencies.
Name of Organization: Poway Neighborhood Emergency Corps
Mailing Address: 13124 Ridgedale Dr., Poway, CA 92064
Meeting Location: Board meetings are breakfast meetings held at Hamburger Factory, 14122 Midland Rd., the first Tuesday of each month at 8:30 a.m. Anyone is welcome to attend.
What communities does the group serve?
Poway, though our bi-monthly community education meetings held the second Thursday of the month at Poway City Council Chambers, 7 to 8:30 p.m. Meetings are always free and open to anyone interested no matter where they live.
Does the group collaborate with any other local organizations?
We collaborate with Susy Turnbull, Disaster Preparedness Coordinator of Poway Fire Dept., Community Emergency Response Team (CERT), Amateur Radio Group Poway Auxiliary Communications Team (PACT), and also serve as the Fire Safe Council of Poway.
How did you personally become involved with PNEC?
I came to the initial meeting – a news article in the Poway Chieftain announced it.
What duties does your role as president involve?
• Facilitate the 501(c)(3) board meetings
• Recruit volunteers to be Neighborhood Emergency Coordinators and block captains in each of Poway’s 60 identified neighborhoods
• Provide networking and training for neighborhood NECs
• Offer each neighborhood yearly meetings to get to know PNEC, the Neighbor Helping Neighbor program, who their coordinator is, and how they can help
• Organize the annual Emergency Survival Fair each year in May at Old Poway Park
• Help locate emergency-related topics and resources to present educational meetings to the community bi-monthly
• When requested, bring ham radio licensing classes and CPR trainings to the community each year
• Give emergency-related presentations to various groups in and out of Poway, such as Kiwanis, Rotary, low-income housing apartment managers group, apartment complexes, Residential Care Facilities for the Elderly (RCFEs), mobile home parks, etc.
• Participate in fairs and booth opportunities to disseminate emergency three-minute kits and safety information
• Attend many other countywide emergency trainings offered and participate in groups like Volunteer Organizations Active in Disaster (VOAD), San Diego County Fire Safe Council, etc.
• Help with annual PACT Field Day communication event and display open to the public in June at Lake Poway
• Participate in weekly ham radio communication net with PACT
• Serve as net control once a month
• Participate in various drills throughout the year involving ham radio, NECs, City of Poway Fire Department, CERT, and other various county organizations.
Name: Terri Sorensen
Profession: Co-Owner of Top Line Roofing, Inc
Hobbies & Interests: Gardening, raising poultry, singing, attending musicals and plays, traveling with husband, all things family!
Favorite Local Spots: Torrey Pines State Beach and Reserve, Old Poway Park, Poway Farmers Market, Lake Poway
What is the most rewarding thing about your role?
Helping individuals be personally prepared. Seeing neighborhoods grasp the Neighbors Helping Neighbors program and creating a support network within. The most challenging? Life keeps our NEC volunteers in constant motion and for various reasons people are not able to volunteer for years at a time, so we are always looking for those willing to be an information point person for their neighborhoods (NECs), assistants, and/or block captains.
What are PNEC’s primary goals, both short-term and long-term?
To provide emergency information and communication to residents during an emergency. Educate Poway residents in preparedness and participate in the Neighbors Helping Neighbors program.
♦ Educational meetings are held at Poway City Hall, City Council Chambers.
♦ Feb. 8: Basic First Aid and CPR Two-Year Certification. Register at 858-688-3061 or firstname.lastname@example.org. 9 a.m. – 1 p.m.
♦ March 12: Community meeting; topic to be determined. 7 – 8:30 p.m.
♦ May 9: 6th Annual Emergency Survival Fair at Old Poway Park. 9 a.m. – 1 p.m.
Can you tell us about any upcoming events?
See calendar above.
What have been some of the organization’s most memorable achievements over the years?
• Starting the annual Emergency Survival Fair
• Helping Safety Services, CERT, and Red Cross provide smoke alarms for residents
• Partnering with PACT to provide ham radio and emergency information into the neighborhoods participating in successful citywide communication drills
• Having volunteers to help with emergencies such as loading sand bags during flood season for residents in need
• Providing three-minute kits for families
• Helping hand out water during recent water crises
How can community members get involved or support the group?
We want residents of Poway to know who their Neighborhood Emergency Coordinator is, and if they don’t have one yet, to volunteer as one, or an assistant or block captain, and be a part of the emergency communication chain. NECs each have a lime green safety bucket and flag. Sometimes during emergencies, power may be out and communication and information difficult to get. NECs are trained to know when to put out their bucket and raise the flag so that neighbors will know they have emergency information to share. If you see this, then stop and find out what is going on.
Who is eligible for membership?
Residents of Poway.
Is there anything else you would like to add for our readers?
PNEC is unique to San Diego County. During emergencies, we often receive requests for interviews from the media, as they are impressed by the level of preparedness and commitment of our volunteers. Even though residents do not need to be actively involved as a neighborhood coordinator or ham radio operator, we encourage them to attend our informative meetings held at council chambers. All meetings are posted on Nextdoor one week in advance of the meeting, and articles of advertisement for the meetings are in the Poway Chieftain. We hope that members of our community will take the next step to better prepare themselves and their families, so they can assist their neighbors as needed in times of emergencies.