EDITORIAL: Don’t leave your neighbours in cold

As temperatures inch downward, we should all be a little more vigilant towards our neighbours.

The situation at Breakaway Bays mobile home park – in which some residents, many of them seniors, were without power, heat or light for days – is a timely reminder that we should all be a little more vigilant about our neighbours, particularly at this time of year, with temperatures inching downward.

Long-term residents of the park said they could recall no similar situation in the past, and, hopefully, the particular set of circumstances that contributed to their distress that began last weekend will not be repeated in the future.

But it only takes one unexpected emergency to show, sometimes tragically, where gaps in our preparedness lie.

It’s a fact that winter brings with it a whole host of possible scenarios, from sudden dumps of snow to downed power lines. Storms can create havoc; but even a sudden plunge in temperature can prove just as fatal as a toppled tree.

Even if we have equipped ourselves to emerge from any emergency relatively unscathed, can we say the same for our neighbours?

Do you know someone who is a shut-in, who lives alone, or has only a pet for company? It doesn’t have to be a family member or even a close friend. It doesn’t have to be a senior – even the young can have challenges that can be compounded by extremes of weather.

Is there some procedure in place – even informally, but certainly not intrusively – that permits you to check on this person during circumstances that would try even the most able-bodied of us?

Are you aware of any ongoing conditions or needs that could affect this person? Do you know if he or she has some alert device, or some other way of summoning help, even without lights, heat or telephone service?

Is there something you could pick up for them at the store? Would you know if this person had been home for days, sick, without venturing out or having any human contact? Would you know if this person had been hospitalized, leaving a pet at home that needs feeding or other care?

We have all been raised with some modicum of self-sufficiency, and may have family and friends around us to help us through most of our crises. Many of us probably take our health and well-being for granted.

But most of us can think of a time when we have been alone and needed help – and realized just how frightening that can be.

For us to help each other at a crucial moment doesn’t require a huge investment of time or capital. It doesn’t require the qualifications of a saint.

All it requires is basic, ordinary, human compassion.