Boston has announced long-term infrastructure and development plans to protect people and property from the impacts of climate change, but some residents of Dorchester — a low-lying neighborhood with the largest population in the city — have a different strategy in mind: asking people to get to know their neighbors.

With a problem as complex as climate change, the suggestion to increase social connections may seem trivial. But residents of Dorchester say they have already experienced the floods that are expected to increase in the coming years. Strengthening neighborhood connections won’t stop the water, but some advocates say it could be critical for responding when the water comes.

Maria Lyons, environment chair of the Port Norfolk Civic Association and a board member of the Neponset River Watershed Association, said encouraging people to get to know their neighbors to understand their unique needs is essential for disaster management.

“It’s absolutely important, especially in places that are geographically isolated, like where I live in Port Norfolk,” she said. “During one of the big storms last year, the roads were so flooded I couldn’t get home from work. What if more homes are cut off next time?”

Rebecca Herst, Director of the Sustainable Solutions Lab at the University of Massachusetts Boston, which is located on a potential floodplain in Dorchester, said the effort to connect neighbors with one another can save lives.

“The bulk of the work with climate change needs to be at the governmental scale, but there is evidence that finding ways to increase social ties within a community can make a big difference, especially after an event,” she said.

Herst cited sociological research from Eric Klinenberg, a professor of sociology at New York University, who found that mortality rates during the 1995 Chicago heat wave were lowest in neighborhoods where there was strong social cohesion.

“Many older residents died at home alone during the heat wave in Chicago because they were unable to leave due to mobility issues and nobody checked on them,” Herst said. “Knowing the evacuation routes and local resources, joining the PTA, getting to know your neighbors, it all adds up so you can better understand your area’s needs and vulnerabilities.”

The climate change predictions for the neighborhood are bleak. Dorchester is uniquely vulnerable to coastal flooding due to the low waterfront edge along Dorchester Bay and the Neponset River. Additionally, the city’s own climate report says Dorchester serves as a protective barrier for the rest of the city; if Dorchester floods, the water could spread to South Boston and other low-lying areas throughout the city.

The city has its own plan for making the neighborhood more resilient, part of its Climate Ready Boston initiative. The plan includes testing existing infrastructure, including the MBTA Red Line, for flood vulnerabilities; a complete redesign for the waterfront Joe Moakley Park; and gathering input from community residents about other priorities.

Some environmental activists say the focus should be on advocating for these types of prevention plans rather than those at an individual level.

Andrew Wells-Bean, campaign coordinator of the Climate Action Network, a Boston-based grassroots organization focused on city climate change legislation, said residents shouldn’t have to bear all the responsibility.

“Learning who your neighbors are, showing up to block parties, that’s all great,” he said. “But people have enough to worry about. Whether their home is going to flood shouldn’t even be on the list. And there’s a lot the city and developers can do to make sure it never goes on that list.”

Magdalena Ayed, founder and executive director of HarborKeepers, a Boston-based environmental nonprofit, also emphasized the importance of community partnerships with city planners and other government officials.

“We need advocacy coming from the neighborhoods themselves,” she said. “We need to be educated in this so we can have a seat at the table with the municipal, state and federal sectors working to combat climate change.”

Residents are also making physical changes to prepare themselves and their homes. At an open house in September organized by the city to get community input, more than 80 people attended and shared the steps they’ve taken to prepare. Some considered relocating mechanical systems out of basements. Others said they had made emergency backpacks with supplies and weighed whether a floodwall in front of their homes would be a good idea.

But Lyons said Dorchester is also well-suited for social planning, like wellness checks, because they have many multigenerational families living close to one another. She hopes these support systems can extend between neighbors and floated the idea of a list with contact information for residents so people could request help if needed.

Officials from the federal government have embraced the idea of building community as part of a larger resiliency approach. After Hurricane Sandy devastated parts of New York City, an international competition called Rebuild by Design was formed in partnership with the Department of Housing and Urban Development to find projects that would make the affected areas more resilient, but with the major requirement that they also improve social infrastructure. Many of the projects are currently underway.

And the Federal Emergency Management Agency has made community engagement part of its readiness plans.

“When it comes to emergency preparedness, connecting residents, local officials, nonprofits, and more to one another can improve each community’s resilience as much as practical efforts to reduce the risk of hazards such as fire or severe weather,” FEMA stated in a 2018 press release.

Whatever the solution, Lyons says Dorchester doesn’t have time to wait.

“From what I’ve seen, everybody in the neighborhood is very interested in getting involved,” she said. “Climate change is not an ‘if’ to any of us. It’s already happening and we’re in the middle of it.”

Brianna McKinley is an intern with WGBH's New England Center for Investigative Reporting