In my last post, I covered items four and five; today I will cover items six, seven, and eight. These are all somewhat difficult subjects as they all touch on our age, physical and / or mental abilities during and after a disaster.
6. Individuals with Access & Functional Needs
Individuals who have mobility challenges or are hearing and /or sight impaired should take additional steps to prepare for disasters. Ask for assistance from friends, family, or local assistance organizations – like the Red Cross, to help develop your plan. Some things to consider:
*Complete an honest assessment of yourself, your abilities and your needs. Would you be able to climb out a window or over a porch handrail if necessary? Can you hear emergency announcements and / or broadcasts?
*If you anticipate the need for special assistance from first responders after a disaster, have you spoken with family, care givers, friends and / or neighbors who can assist and be part of your emergency plan? Have you contacted your local fire department, ambulance company and police to advise them of your capacities and needs?
*Write out an emergency information card with the following information: medications you take, allergies, sensory or mobility impairments, equipment you need in an emergency and emergency contact names and numbers. Place this information somewhere where it will be easily found – next to your phone, on a bed stand, or a table next to the front door. Make sure you give a copy to friends or relatives who are part of your emergency plan and let them know who to contact in the event of a disaster.
*If you live in an assisted living facility, find out what the emergency plan is for each floor, and where their rally points are.
*If mobility is an issue, identify two accessible escape routes. Make a map of these routes and keep several copies around the house. In the event of a disaster, you may become disoriented; having a map to easily refer to may help with your escape. It may also help first responders know where they might be able to locate you.
*If you use a wheelchair with pneumatic tires, keep a tire patch kit handy. Nails, staples, and broken glass can cause flat tires with ease. If you use a powered chair on a regular basis, keep a non-powered chair around as a back up.
*Form a mutual support team with friends and neighbors to check in on each other after a disaster. Provide each other with house keys – remember garage door codes may not work if the power is out. Keep each other updated on your travel so they’re not trying to check on you if you’re already out of town. Teach everyone how to use any and all medical equipment you might be reliant on in your home.
*Keep a written description of how to communicate with you or move you if need be.
*If you’re hearing impaired, make sure your smoke detectors and / or CO detectors have strobe light functions to grab your attention as needed. Keep a pen and paper in your emergency kit so you can communicate with first responders.
*If you’re blind, mark emergency supplies with braille. Keep an extra cane by your bed and living area.
The website www.accessibleemergencyinfo.com has preparedness information in Braille and video’s in ASL – check it out and be prepared.
7. Seniors (pg 21)
Regardless of if you live alone, depend on a caregiver or live in an assisted living center, it is vital to have a plan for what to do before, during and after a disaster. Discuss emergency plans with family, friends, neighbors and medical persons who may visit your residence on a professional level with regularity. Let them know about your risks, vulnerabilities, and any special needs. Let everyone know where you keep your emergency kit, your extra mobility tools like canes, walkers, and wheelchairs. When creating your emergency plan, know the answers to these questions and plan accordingly – change the plan as these answers change.
* Do you live alone?
*Do you drive or own a car?
*How good is your sense of smell?
*Do you have any physical, medical, thinking, or learning limitations?
*Has your sense of hearing or vision decreased?
*Are you reliant upon a caregiver?
Ask around and keep yourself informed on your community disaster plan. Your local fire station or police station may provide some assistance. Keep a map of your the area’s response and evacuation plans as provided by local officials. Where available, sign up for advance registration systems with your local first responders and medical assistance providers – make sure to keep them updated of any changes to your needs – it may make a difference in their ability to quickly provide help in a disaster. If you have regular home care, check with your provider to see if they have any additional assistance or information that may help in times of disaster.
In addition to your standard emergency kit, you may want to consider keeping your supplies in a wheeled bag or container.
*Label any equipment (wheelchair, walker, canes) and medicines you may need in a disaster with your name and contact information.
*Keep hearing aids, glasses or other items you need next to your bed – along with a good pair of shoes and a flashlight. Secure them in or with something that will keep them in place during a disaster – especially during an earthquake or high wind situation where they are likely to be dislocated.
Walk through your residence and make sure you have a clear path to all identified escape routes. You don’t want any un-necessary impediments blocking your way if you need to get out in a hurry.
*Make sure throw rugs or loose carpeting are secured or out of the way of a main path. They can become trip hazards. Keep floors dry and clear of all spills.
*Make sure your escape routes are wheelchair accessible if necessary.
*Return your mobility items like wheelchairs, walkers, and canes to the same place when you are not using them so they can be found quickly.
*Know where the safest places in your home are for sheltering yourself, if needed.
8) Your Mental Health (Pg 21)
Being prepared can help reduce the emotional impact a disaster can have on you and your family. Make a family plan, and practice your evacuation plans. Make sure your supplies are in order and emergency contact information is up-to-date. There’s no way to take away the shock a disaster can leave you in. You can reduce the feeling that everything is out of control with some planning.
DISASTERS MAY CAUSE HIGHLY EMOTIONAL REACTIONS AMONG YOUR FRIENDS AND FAMILY MEMBERS. NORMAL RESPONSES INCLUDE:
*Numbness, apathy or depression
*Difficulty concentrating or making decisions
*Anxiety, restlessness, irritability, or fear
TIPS TO HELP YOUR MENTAL HEALTH:
*Stay calm – panicking does not help anyone or anything.
*Try to keep around others – especially someone you know and trust
*Accept help from others – likewise, offer help when able
*Notice positives; don’t put blame on others
*Talk about your feelings and your emotions – getting it out will help keep you calm.
FOR LONG TERM ADJUSTING:
*Allow yourself to cry – getting your emotions out is helpful
*Get some exercise – walk briskly if you can
*Avoid excessive alcohol / drugs
*Seek professional help if depression and / or anxiousness continue or become worse.
After you and your family are out of danger, sit down together and collect yourselves and your thoughts. Limit any decision making to the needs of the moment. Avoid talking of long-term recovery – focus on getting through one day at a time.
Hopefully you will find this helpful in planning your or a family member’s emergency plan. Feel free to visit the American Red Cross site for more information. I’ll be following up with the next post soon!
Until next time – be safe!