Helpful Harriet

Dear Jewish Fairy Godmother:

I live in an area that has a history of weather related disasters. I have
an emergency kit and have taken classes about preparedness and post
impact scenarios. Because I do not travel much I am often the person
that neighbors turn to for home and pet care. I’ve realized I don’t want
to, nor am I able to, be the only responsible person if disaster strikes
while they’re gone. But I am uncomfortable just saying No when

Helpful Harriet

Dear Helpful:
It’s entirely legit for you to set standards about whom you will help
and how, and to make sure those understand both the limits of your
availability and also your responsibility. Just like the saying, good
fences make good neighbors, in this case, good communication makes
for good relationships.

Gather the information you have acquired in your classes into a very
simple packet. Include things that you think everyone should know
and have done like basic preparedness kit and simple first aid
instructions. Then make a While You’re Away checklist that includes
things they should do before they leave such as dealing with open gas
or water lines, having the paper delivery held, writing watering or pet
care instructions, setting window and door locks.


Finally, have a What Harriet Does (and Doesn’t) Do that’s explicit about
the limits of your care. The last line of this should be for their signature
and a date, and just above it should be a sentence or two that reads something
like:  Harriet’s doing me a favor and I am trusting her best judgment about
the care of my home and possessions. In case of disaster or serious
problems, she’s to do her best to contact me ASAP, but is not
responsible for loss or damage to my property. If anyone balks, blame
it on your lawyer or Jewish Fairy Godmother. But you shouldn’t get
into a hassle for helping.