Emergency Preparedness

Disasters can happen at any time, without warning. A natural disaster can force you to either stay in your home, possibly without essential utilities, or be evacuated to a public shelter or elsewhere. It is essential to have an emergency plan in place before it happens. This includes having the necessary supplies (in the event that you have to stay in your home) and a trusted person or network to check on you following the event, as well as an evacuation plan should you need to leave.

Here are some tips to protect you and cope with a disaster before it happens.

• Identify a person or group of people who will become your “emergency preparedness team.” This person should be someone you trust as they should have a copy of your house and car keys, access to important documents and medical records, and will check on you immediately following a disaster. Have a “contact” plan as telephone service may not be operable following a disaster. If services are limited, an out-of-town contact is preferable as it is often easier to make a long-distance call than a local one from a disaster area. Make sure to post all your important telephone numbers near your telephone, including those in your network.

• Use local resources. Many communities have local neighborhood emergency teams such as a neighborhood watch group, community block association or faith-based organizations. Let them know your needs and how they can assist you should you need it. Notify your local fire department to any special needs you may have and sign up to an Advance Registration System in your area for those who need help in an emergency.

• Be informed. Know your community’s emergency plan. If you do not own a car or drive, find out what your community’s plans are for evacuating those without transportation or ensure someone on your “team” will drive you. If you receive home care, speak to your case manager about their plans in an emergency and how they can assist you.

• For those with disabilities. If you use a wheelchair, make sure all the escape routes from your home are wheelchair accessible and all medical equipment such as wheelchairs and walkers are in a designated area in your home with your name, address and telephone number clearly shown. For those with hearing aids or other assisted devices, consider storing them in a bedside container attached to furniture as things may shift in a naturally occurring disaster such as an earthquake.

• For those with pets. Animals (excluding service animals) are not allowed in emergency public shelters for health reasons. Prepare a list of who will care for your pet or boarding facilities that may assist you should you need to bring your animal to a safe location during evacuation.

• Review your insurance policy to ensure you are covered for any disaster that may affect your community, such as floods.

• Prepare an emergency kit. Your kit should be stored in one centralized location in an easy to carry container such as a duffle bag (with wheels and ID tag) and stocked with supplies for at least three days. Items should include a battery-operated or hand-cranked radio, water (1 gallon per person, per day), non-perishable food, a flashlight with extra batteries, first aid kit, medications and important documents, cell phone and charger, a change of clothes and cash. If you have a pet, make sure to include necessary pet supplies.

Having an emergency kit, a network of caregivers and a plan will allow you to feel calmer, more in control and most importantly, safe, during a natural or other type of disaster.

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