The General & The Neighbor | WBEZ
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The Takeaway

The General & The Neighbor

General Russel Honoré is a cigar-chomping military man. Not the kind of guy you’d expect to take on an environmental cause. But one experience changed that. 

The General was in charge of evacuating New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina. He saw elderly people get left in their homes. And he saw the very government he served failing to save people in poor and black communities. 

He heard these kinds of disasters were predicted to become more common because of climate change. He grew up around oil country. Environmentalism wasn’t his thing. But preparedness was. And so he set out on a new mission: Help people be their own first responders, as we face more frequent disaster.

A few years ago Brad Redrick went to one of the General’s talks.

Up to that point, Redrick had mostly been doing work around gun violence. He’s from Greater Grand Crossing on Chicago’s South Side. It’s the kind of community Honoré says suffers most in disasters. Redrick learned that climate change would likely mean more frequent and severe floods, and that the city’s infrastructure and response system weren’t sufficiently prepared.

So Redrick started knocking on doors, trying to figure out where people lived who might have a hard time evacuating on their own. He held meetings where they learned what kind of food and tools they should have in case of disasters. He calls his project Disaster Preparedness Initiative (DPI) 60619, after the area’s zip code. He’s had some successes, but it’s been an uphill battle, so we invited Redrick to speak directly with General Honoré.

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