Ashland long has prided itself on its sense of community. It's a place where residents help each other out, whether it's collecting food for the hungry, sheltering the homeless on cold winter nights, or raising money for a new athletic field or arts and music programs in the schools. That approach can extend down to the neighborhood level in the wake of a natural disaster. In fact, your neighbors may be the only ones you can count on in the immediate aftermath of a major wildfire or catastrophic earthquake.

Residents who attended a "Map Your Neighborhood" meeting Sunday learned that Oregon scores a D-minus for preparedness. In other words, emergency responders could take two months to reach you after a massive quake.

That means your neighbors — and your own resources — will be all you have to fall back on. That's why having a neighborhood plan in place could make all the difference.

So far, 30 mapped neighborhoods exist in Ashland. That means they have met each other, designated a gathering place in the wake of a disaster, drawn up an inventory of skills and equipment, and identified who in the neighborhood has small children, is elderly or disabled or alone. Participants know where fire hydrants are and have mapped gas shutoff valves for each residence.

To get started in your neighborhood, call community preparedness coordinator Terri Eubanks with Ashland Fire & Rescue at 541-552-2226 or email cert@ashland.or.us. Training sessions will be held in April. For more information, see www.ashlandcert.org.