As the word ‘Emergency’ means some kind of a sudden, unforeseen, urgent, usually unexpected event or incident needing immediate action or attention; this is definitely something everyone needs to be prepared for.
What is emergency preparedness?
Emergency preparedness steps are things that you should take to ensure that you are safe before, during, and after an emergency or natural disaster. These steps or plans are essential for your safety in both natural disasters and man-made disasters. Some examples of natural disasters are blizzards, floods, tornadoes, and earthquakes. While, man-made disasters can include explosions, fires, chemical, and biological attacks.
Ever since the unfortunate events of September 11, 2001, in New York City and more recently, Hurricane Katrina, Americans are more aware of emergencies. About 96% of Americans feel it is essential to prepare for emergencies according to a 2004 Harris Poll. However, less than 20% said that they are already and totally prepared. In spite of guidelines from government organizations and community-based services such as the American Red Cross, only 42% of Americans have created a personal emergency kit.
People with disabilities are especially vulnerable during and after emergencies. Many systems you rely on may not function well as they usually do in case of emergency. Familiar landmarks and usual travel routes you and your service animal know may suddenly be altered. Utilities such as electricity, water, gas, and phone services may be stopped. You may also need to temporarily evacuate to a shelter that may not be fully accessible for your immediate needs.
What are disasters?
The most usual disasters result from meteorological or weather-related and geological events and these can all affect any area of the U.S. Their impact can be localized or widespread, can even be predictable or unpredictable. Damage can even range from minimal to major. They can also have a long-term impact on the infrastructure such as roads, bridges, and utilities of any location depending on the severity of the incident.
These threats involve natural forces such as thunderstorms, floods, tornados, hurricanes, winter storms, drought, wildfire, landslides, earthquakes, tsunami (tidal wave), volcano, and dam failure. Man-made hazards include material releases and spills, acts of terrorism, and nuclear accidents. Natural hazards are commonly but not always more predictable than any type of disaster. Other threats may also happen like animal health emergencies such as outbreaks of foreign animal disease.
We can recognize from past experiences which geographical locations are most vulnerable to certain kinds of natural hazards although we cannot know exactly when or where disasters will strike or how severe they can be.
If something happens, are you prepared? If disaster strikes in your community, being prepared can make all the difference. Let’s build your preparedness kit. Your water-tight container should hold 12 items and you only have a minute to find out how prepared you really are! Now, let’s get started. Remember not to guess and show us what the safety consultants recommend.
You need the following items:
- Baby supplies
- Canned food
- 6 pack
- First aid kit
- Pet food
- Duct tape
- Can opener
- Bug spray
- Personal documents
- Notebook and pencils
- Extra clothes
- Electronics chargers
- Portable radio
Don’t be caught unprepared. Preparing in advance can make a huge difference.
Some tips for preparation:
- Medications are essential. If you rely on medications, ensure that you have at least a 3-7 day supply in your kit.
- Young children need extra care. If you have a baby or young child in your care, ensure that you have items such as diapers, wipes, bottles, and formula.
- Pets are part of your family too. Ensure that you have food and extra water for them as well.
Make Your Emergency Plan in 3 Steps
- Discuss with your family or household members how to prepare and respond to the kinds of emergencies that are most likely to happen where you live, learn, work and play.
- Set responsibilities for each member of your family and household and how you will work together with them as a team during emergencies.
- Practice as many elements and factors of your plan as possible.
Include Common Emergency Scenarios When You Plan
Plan for the emergencies that are most likely to happen where you live:
- Familiarize yourselves with natural disaster risks in your own community.
- Carefully consider how you will respond to emergencies that can happen anywhere such as home fires and floods.
- Also consider how you will respond to emergencies that are only found in your regions such as volcanoes, tsunamis, or tornadoes.
- Think about different emergencies that may require you and your family to shelter in a different place such as a winter storm vs. emergencies that possibly might need evacuation such as a hurricane.
Also, plan what to do in case you are separated during an emergency:
- Choose two places to meet up:
- Just right outside your home in case of a sudden emergency such as a fire.
- Just outside your neighborhood in case you cannot return home or are asked to evacuate.
- Appoint someone to be your out-of-area emergency contact person. It may be an easier choice to text or call long distances if local phone lines are overloaded or out of service. We suggest carrying emergency contact information in writing and saving it on your cell phones. Also, make sure where your children mostly spend their time such as schools and daycare also have these contact numbers.
- Your plan should also include family members who may also live elsewhere during the year such as members of the military on deployment or students away at college or family members who often travel.
- How will you initiate your plan if they are at home?
- What would be your alternate plan in case one of you is away?
Emergency Contact Card
We also suggest making emergency contact cards for the whole family in case you are separated during an emergency.
If you have to evacuate, plan what you should do.
- Decide where you would go and which route you would take to get there such as:
- A hotel/motel
- The home of friends or relatives at a safe distance away
- An evacuation shelter
- Practice evacuating your home twice a year. Get your emergency kit just like you will in a real case of an emergency then drive your planned evacuation route. Plot alternate routes on your maps in case usual roads are not passable. Always make sure that you have locations and maps saved on devices such as your cell phones and GPS units and of course, on paper too.
- Also, plans ahead for your pets. Keep a list of hotels and animal shelters that pet-friendly and are along your evacuation routes. If it’s not safe for you to stay home, it’s not safe for your pets either so keep them in mind too as you plan your emergency preparedness.
The reunification of the family within the country
If you are not able to find or contact a loved one or friend who had been affected by a disaster, the American Red Cross can help you find them if but this should meet certain criteria:
- If your missing loved one is elderly, has a functional need and suffers from a medical or mental condition, or has difficulty understanding the English language; be it spoken or written, you can reach out to your local Red Cross chapter for assistance. A representative from your chapter may reconnect you with Reunification Activity workers in the area and may eventually reconnect you with your missing loved one.
- If you’re missing a loved one or friend and you resided in the same home before the current disaster event. However, if you become separated as a result of evacuations or other circumstances, you may also reach out to your local Red Cross chapter. Someone from your local chapter may connect you with Reunification Activity workers in the disaster area to assist with locating your missing loved one/roommate.
- If you or your missing loved one is a member of the “military-connected community” (She / He may be active duty, reserve, guard, retired, veteran, or immediate family), you may also reach out to your local Red Cross chapter for assistance. Someone from your local chapter may connect you with Reunification Activity workers in the disaster area to assist with locating your missing loved one/friend.
- If your missing loved one/friend doesn’t meet one of the above criteria, we ask you that you may be creative and persistent. If one of the following contact methods doesn’t work, try one more time and don’t give up!
Tips for Contacting Loved Ones
- Call during off-peak hours; hours that most people may not call; for the best chance of getting through.
- Send a text message through your phone which may go through when phone calls cannot.
- Check your loved one’s social media pages (such as Facebook, Twitter, etc.), as they may have already gone online to tell their story.
- Send an email.
- Call friends and relatives who might have had contact with your loved one.
- We suggest calling people and places where your loved one is well-known. Be it your neighbors, employer, school, place of worship, senior center, social club/center, union, or even fraternal organization.
- We also suggest trying to send a letter. These letters may be getting forwarded to his or her new location.
Now, let us discuss the novel pandemics since this is so timely.
A pandemic happens when a disease outbreak spreads from a country to its neighboring countries, and even the whole world and affects a huge number of people. Pandemics are often due to viruses such as the Coronavirus Disease 2019 or COVID-19 which can easily spread from person to person.
A novel (new) virus such as COVID-19 can come from anywhere and quickly spread around the world. It is difficult to know when or where the next novel pandemic will come from.
- This may be spread directly from person to person.
- This may also be spread indirectly.
- Germs can transfer from objects to a person.
- This can also be spread by people who are infected but don’t have any symptoms.
- A vaccine, testing, or treatment for the illness may not be available right away.
- It may take a long time for the majority of the world to become immune to the disease.
If a Novel Pandemic is declared:
- We suggest that you always wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds and try not to touch your eyes, nose, and mouth.
- Always keep a distance of at least six feet between yourself and people who are not part of your household.
- Always cover your mouth and nose with a mask in public.
- Always clean and disinfect high-touch objects and surfaces.
- Always stay at home as much as possible to prevent the spread of the virus and disease.
- Always follow the guidance of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and local authorities.
How to stay safe when a pandemic threatens
Learn how diseases spread to help protect yourselves and your loved ones.
- We suggest that we take necessary actions to prevent the spread of disease. IF you need to cough or sneeze, make sure to cover your mouth. Always stay home when you’re sick except if you need to get medical care outside. Always wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds long.
- Plan for your schools, workplaces, and community centers to be closed. Learn to investigate and prepare for virtual coordination for school, work, and social activities with other people.
- Make an emergency plan so you and your family know what to do and what you will need in case an emergency happens. Always consider how a pandemic may affect your plans for other emergencies.
- Have supplies ready beforehand if you need to stay home for several days or weeks. These supplies may include cleaning supplies, non-perishable food, prescription medicines, and bottled water. Purchase supplies slowly to make sure that everyone has the opportunity to buy what they need. Always remember that not all people can afford to stock up goods immediately.
- Gather supplies for in any case that you need to stay home for a few days or weeks. Supplies may include cleaning supplies, non-perishable food, medicines, and sets of bottled water. Build up your stock of supplies slowly to ensure that everyone has had the chance to get what they need. Remember that not everyone has the means to stock up immediately. Kindly avoid products that are WIC-labeled so people who rely on these products can access them. WIC is a federal government program that helps out low-income women, infants, and children who are at nutritional risk.
- Always review your health insurance policies to understand what they cover including telemedicine options.
- We also suggest creating password-protected digital copies of important documents and store them in a safe place. Always watch out for scams and fraud.
Stay Healthy DURING
- Always follow the latest guidelines from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention and state and local authorities to prevent the spread of disease. Always refer to your local and state public health departments for vaccine and testing updates.
- Have good personal health habits and public health practices. If you always properly hand wash and disinfect surfaces, this can help slow the spread of disease. If soap and water are not available, using a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol content is also good.
- Avoid close and face-to-face contact with other people. Stay at home as much as possible to prevent the spread of the virus.
- Contact your doctor if you believe you have been exposed to the disease. Follow the quarantine instructions from your medical providers and monitor your symptoms. Immediately call 911 and shelter in place with a mask if you’re experiencing a medical emergency. Always practice social distancing when you’re in public. Always keep a distance of at least six feet between yourself and people who are not living with you. Always avoid crowds and large groups of people.
- If you have been infected, share accurate information about the disease with friends, family, and people on social media. It may result in serious health outcomes if you spread misinformation. Always remember that stigma hurts everyone and can cause discrimination against people, places, and even nations.
- Always remember that it’s normal to feel anxious or stressed. Contact your community through video and phone calls. Always take care of your body and talk to someone if you are feeling anxious or stressed.
Be Safe AFTER
- Continue taking protective actions like the following:
- Always stay at home when you are sick (except when you need to get medical care).
- Always follow the guidance of your health care providers.
- Always cover your mouth with a tissue when you cough and sneeze.
- Always wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
- Always follow guidance on the re-opening of businesses, schools, community-based organizations, houses of worship, and workplaces.
- Always ensure to evaluate your family emergency plan and make timely updates.
- Work with your local community to talk about the lessons you learned from the pandemic. Decide how you can use these experiences to be more prepared for future pandemics.
We hope that you have learned something about disasters and emergency preparedness. We also hope that our information about the current pandemic can also help you. Don’t forget to check our website for more information. Kindly do also ask some questions if you have something in mind. We’ll wait for you and stay safe!