Third in a series of National Preparedness Month
September is the month of national preparation. This year, we partnered with the Coalition on Inclusive Contingency Planning (CIEP) to offer disability preparedness advice, access and functional needs.
The theme for this week is “Be ready.” Check out the other blogs in this month’s series: “Be Vigilant” and “Be Connected”.
Keep important documents close at hand
In an emergency, you won’t want to rummage through files for important documents. Copy, scan, or save important documents to a USB drive, CD, or other portable media device. Keep them in a password protected folder. That way you can grab it and go. Important documents include:
- Medical papers.
- Insurance cards.
- Identification, including passports.
- Income statements.
- Lease, mortgage or deed.
- Vehicle titles.
You can also consider setting up a computer backup system to store important data offsite.
Store hearing aids nearby
Store hearing aids or cochlear implant processors where you can find them easily, even in the dark. You can keep them by your bedside in a container attached to a nightstand or a bedpost with string or Velcro. Replacing or repairing devices will be difficult soon after a major disaster.
Other items to store with emergency supplies:
- Additional batteries for hearing aids.
- Old hearing aids that still work.
Keep your pager, captioned phone, and other wireless communications devices charged. Invest in a solar or hand crank charger to power your devices. They can be found in outdoor stores or online. Maintain batteries and store extras for your other communication equipment. Consult the owner’s manual for instructions.
Make sure you can leave
In an emergency, you may need to move away from your home, so it’s important to be prepared for this eventuality.
- An emergency kit can save your life after a major disaster. Build a basic emergency kit with water and non-perishable foods – enough to last up to two weeks in the household. Buy a little at a time each month until you have a full kit and add other items specific to your needs.
- Put a small three-day kit in your car or in a backpack.
- Store emergency supplies in a bag or backpack attached to a walker, wheelchair, or scooter.
- Store necessary mobility aids (canes, crutches, walkers, wheelchairs) near you in a consistent, convenient and secure location. Keep extra aids in multiple places, if possible.
- Keep a pair of thick gloves in your supplies kit for rolling or working your way over broken glass or debris.
- If you are using a wheelchair or motorized scooter, consider having an extra battery. A car battery can be used as a wheelchair battery, but it will not last as long as a deep cycle wheelchair battery. Check with your supplier on how to charge the batteries. Some connect to a vehicle battery through jumper cables or to a converter that plugs into your vehicle.
- If your chair does not have puncture-proof tires, keep a repair kit or box of “air-joints” to repair flat tires, or keep a supply of inner tubes.
- Store a light manual wheelchair, if available.
- If you use a cane or walker, keep extras in your emergency kit and other safe places at work, home, school, and volunteer sites to help you get around obstacles.
Know your surroundings
Do what you can now to make getting around and out of your home easier in an emergency.
- Arrange and secure furniture and other items for barrier-free travel.
- Anchor special equipment and large furniture, such as computers and shelves.
- If you use the elevators frequently, plan and practice using alternate starting methods. If necessary, seek help from your personal support network.
- If you can’t use the stairs, discuss lifting and carrying techniques that are right for you. Wheelchair users may need to leave chairs behind to exit a building safely.
- Sometimes moving someone using stairs is impractical unless two or more strong people can control the chair. Be prepared to give your assistants brief instructions on how to get around safely and the safest way to get around if you need to be transported. Alert assistants to any areas of vulnerability. For example, the traditional “fire door” can be dangerous for people with respiratory problems.
Develop alternative mobility indices
Place safety lights in each room to illuminate travel paths. These lights plug into outlets and turn on in the event of a power failure. Some types will run for up to six hours. Some can even be detached and used as flashlights.
- Keep high powered, wide beam flashlights handy. Store extra batteries.
- Anticipate the loss of your usual hearing signals after a major disaster and plan accordingly.
- Be prepared to use alternative means to navigate your surroundings.
- If helpful, mark emergency supplies with large print, fluorescent tape or braille.
Stock up on drugs and medical supplies
- Always keep a three-day supply of all your medications on hand. And don’t forget to include any medical consumables you need, such as bandages, ostomy bags, or syringes.
- Store all of your medications in one place and in their original containers. Plan how to keep medications like insulin cold, if necessary.
- Keep a list of medications so you can refill them in an emergency. Include the name of the drug, dosage, frequency, and the name of the prescribing physician.
- Don’t forget about durable medical equipment, consumable medical supplies, and pet medication.
Provide for the energization of electrical medical equipment
- If you depend on electricity for a CPAP machine, oxygen, or other home medical equipment, consider investing in a generator or battery backup system. Identify other sources and locations of electrical power, in case you need to leave the house.
- For any durable medical equipment that requires electrical power (beds, respirators, or infusion pumps), consult your medical supply supplier for alternative power sources.
- If you use a generator, never use it indoors, to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning.
- Know if your infusion pump has a battery backup and how long it will last in an emergency.
Ask your home care provider about manual infusion techniques in the event of a power failure.
- Include written instructions for use with all equipment.
Breathe easier with oxygen and breathing equipment
- If you are using oxygen and / or breathing equipment, have an emergency supply for at least three days, including tubes, solutions, and medication.
- Secure your oxygen tanks so that they do not fall out. Call your medical supply supplier for instructions on bracing.
Getting online before an emergency can help save lives. Check out these others general preparation tips, advice for people with access and functional needs, and this handy brochure, “Make It Through”. Look out for more tips later this month on how to To be aware.
Written by guest blogger Jim House, Manager of the Integration of People with Disabilities in Emergency Planning, Coalition for Inclusive Emergency Planning (CIEP). The CIEP is a state-wide advisory group that focuses on access and functional needs (AFN) issues before, during and after a disaster. The CIEP is a program of the Washington State Independent Living Council (WASILC) and is funded by the DOH.
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