Tuesday, June 14, 2011

DE Area MS Chat Follow-up Information: Emergency Preparedness

Thanks to the 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'm providing the information I shared, and the links I mentioned in the chat.

Although emergency planning is important for everyone, it is critical for people with special needs or disabilities. These notes are provided to encourage you to begin THINKING about your needs.

Delaware has implemented an Emergency Preparedness Voluntary Registry for citizens who have special needs.  If you register using the secure website, then 911 personnel and first responders will have access to this information and can use it to better serve you should you need to dial 911. This includes fire, police, and EMT personnel.  IF you want emergency personnel to know about any of your special needs, I suggest that you check this out.

Also, this registry will give Delaware local and state emergency planners important information to better plan for wide spread emergencies such as hurricanes, floods, etc. 

To register on line (site is secure), go to http://de911assist.delaware.gov/
Emergency Preparedness planning starts with a PLAN. 
http://www.preparede.org/ - This is the BEST place to start, it is the Delaware Citizen Corp’s website with details on how to prepare.  This site includes five YouTube videos to help you through the planning process.

Start by identifying the emergencies you have to prepare for. The most common emergencies in DE are caused by Nor'easters. They cause flooding and blizzards, and we get them all year. We've also had some heat waves this year, which can be an emergency situation if you are not prepared.

We just began hurricane season on 1 June. Although Delaware has never experienced a head-on hit, we have gotten hit with glancing blows. 

What if a hurricane 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.

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?  Do you have a hand-crank powered radio?

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?

The Delaware Emergency Preparedness Team recommends 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.

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. Have a backup in case the hotels are full - lots of people will be doing the same thing.

Let's assume that your neighborhood gets evacuated, you can find a place 15 miles away. But if all of the beach area 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. Sign up with Delaware's Emergency Preparedness Registry, which I explained above.  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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