Public Health Preparedness!!!

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Posted 19 Mar 2009 in Soulville

SoulvilleThere is little doubt in my mind that almost every one reading this article has heard almost exactly what I’m going to write, but I will bet less than 1/3 of you have actually done it. What am I talking about? Preparing for a disaster. Most people in the US think of terrorist events when they hear disaster these days, but natural disasters and accidents have occurred far more often and can cause geographical, physical, emotional, and financial harm. Are you prepared?

There are three things every household in the US can do to improve their chances of survival no matter what type of disaster occurs. 1) Make a kit. 2) Make a plan. 3) Be informed. We’ll go through these one at a time.

1. Make a kit. A kit? What are you talking about? In a disaster, you should have enough supplies on hand to last you at minimum 3 days. Why 3 days? There is the possibility that in a disaster it could take up to three days for you to be found and rescued in a disaster. Or, it could take three days or more for your resources to be returned (power, water supplies). There are many possibilities so plan ahead. Think about every person in your home AND animals. Don’t leave anyone out. CDC recommends a two week kit.

Things to include in your kit should be non-perishable foods (don’t forget the can opener!), medicines (all meds that people using the kit take regularly and some OTC meds that you think you might need), basic toiletry items (still gotta brush those teeth and try to bathe), a gallon of water per person per day, clothing, first aid kit, batteries, a weather radio, flashlights, copies of important documents (social security cards, birth certificates, passports), money (ATMs may not work and usually neither do card machines at checkouts), blankets, pillows, and something to pass the time (non-electronic items like crosswords or cards, etc…if you can afford it, pack a couple laptop or other specialty batteries to use those specific items). Other ideas are at the CDC Bioterrorism site.

If you know you’re a place that family members or friends might evacuate to or you frequently have guests and visitors, don’t forget to add enough to account for a couple extra people. If you have elderly people or babies that visit, make sure to include things that they need too, even though they aren’t regular visitors. Always be prepared!

2. Make a plan. Remember in elementary school when the firefighters taught your class the importance of stop drop and roll and how to get out the house with a plan? Same idea here. Know who to include (who lives in the house), who your emergency contacts are (phone numbers, addresses), where to go in case of emergency, how to get out of the house in case of fire, flood, etc, what things need to be shut off in case of emergency, what type of emergency system your town uses, what disabilities you may need to accommodate and how, etc.

If someone uses a wheelchair, make sure you know how to get them out the house even if you can’t use a ramp in the front of the home. If someone is deaf, make sure you have visual signals in your home to warn them of the emergency. If your town uses sirens, know what they sound like. It doesn’t pay just to have a plan, you have to know whether it works, so like your middle school tennis coach “practice, practice, practice”. If something doesn’t work, change it. Locate local officials at the health department, police department, fire department, etc that may have courses on how to make a plan or are willing to come to your home and show you.

3. Be informed. Know what is going on in your area and what you should do for it. I moved to an area this year that is on a fault. So, naturally, I learned what to do in an earthquake. I grew up in an area with tornadoes. So I endured all those tornado drills (and warnings) with my head under my hands in the hallway (why was my spot ALWAYS by the bathroom??). What disasters occur or could occur where you live? Other things to know about being informed are how to shelter in place (or how to survive an emergency exactly where you are), understanding what quarantines and isolation do and how they work (and the importance of cooperating in these situations), and not going crazy when an emergency occurs. This is definitely an on-going part of an emergency.

Other resources:
FEMA: Are You Ready?

I like checking my plan and my kit around the time the clocks change. It’s a good time to replace medicines that may be expiring and check batteries in the kit as well as those in smoke detectors.

How do you prepare and are you prepared??

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