Saturday, August 14, 2010

Emergency Preparedness Chat Results

Thanks to the six chatters who attended a special chat on Emergency Preparedness. We had an open chat for the first hour, then a lecture for the second hour.  I shared information I received at last week's Delaware Emergency Preparedness Forum. Below, I'm providing the information I shared, and the links I mentioned in the chat: - This is the BEST place to start, it is the Delaware Citizen Corp’s website with details on how to prepare.

Although emergency planning is important for everyone, it is critical for people with special needs or disabilities.

We are heading into the heart of hurricane season for our area. Although Delaware has never experienced a head-on hit, we have gotten hit with glancing blows. Remember Hurricane Isabella in September 2003 or Floyd in September 1999?

What if one hits us this year, and you are either stuck at home for three days or are compelled to leave your house? Are you prepared to "shelter in place" or evacuate? I suggest that you start thinking about this now, before an emergency hits. Create YOUR personal emergency plan first.

Start by identifying the emergencies you have to prepare for. For example, in Delaware we probably don't have to worry about volcanoes, but the most common emergencies in DE are caused by Nor'easters. They cause flooding and blizzards, and we get them all year.

Example: In preparing my personal emergency plan, my first concern is loss of electricity during a storm. Without electricity, I have no refrigerator for medications, no Air Conditioning (and getting overheated causes loss of functionality), and the basement could flood due to the sump pumps not working.

Another concern is that during a blizzard, like the one we had this March, I don't have the energy to shovel the driveway after a blizzard so an ambulance couldn't get to me if I'm injured. I have to be ready in case I can't walk or see when the storm hits, also.

There are a number of on-line resources to help you plan how to maintain your independence BEFORE a disaster strikes. - I suggest you start with this one, no matter which state you live in.

Consider all the strategies and stuff you need every day now. That includes a wheelchair, a cane, a service dog, another person, for example. What about medications, communications tools, transportation, and health-related items? Glasses?

Consider HOW will you GET updates on the weather or emergency? Who do you need to stay in touch with? How will you do that?

IF you have to evacuate, let's say a gas line breaks in your building or neighborhood and you have to leave the area. What do you need to take and how will you leave? Can you drive? Do you need assistance getting down stairs? Who will you call?

An eye opener for me:
The Delaware Emergency Preparedness Team recommended that you come up with your own arrangements for a shelter rather than rely on public 'shelters' like the Superdome in New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina. I think you all know how miserable that was.

So start thinking about where you would go, who you could stay with, what hotels are handicapped accessible. Figure in increments of 15 miles away, 30, 60, 90, for example.

Let's assume that your neighborhood gets evacuated, you can find a place 15 miles away. But if all of Rehoboth gets evacuated, you’ll need to go farther. If a tsunami hits the east coast, you might want to go even farther west.

Once you create your plan, create a Go Bag, a backpack or bag with essentials that you need in case you have to leave quickly. Consider including a hand-crank radio/flashlight, first aid kit, water, food, medicines, copies of prescriptions and important phone numbers. In a major disaster, 911 can get overwhelmed with calls, and it's possible that emergency personnel can't get to you.

Communicate your plan to others. Tell your family and friends. Tell the local authorities (fire department) where you live and what you will need. Delaware is working on a registry, and hopes to have it ready by September. Keep your eyes open for that. And keep your plan up to date, and communicate any changes to the people who support you.

There is a LOT more around this topic than we could address in a 1-hour chat, but I hope this starts you thinking about YOUR emergency preparedness plan. Please use the websites cited above to get started.


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