Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Being Prepared for Major Disasters

I recently attended a training related to knowing what to do when large scale bad things happen and thought it was a great thing to be reminded of.

Obviously the big worry right now is H1N1. There are several groups of people, those who are totally freaking out, those who are like “come on, it is just the flu! Get over it!” and those who are in-between. Well, there is a (really small) chance that society could shut down if this flu changes and acts like the bad flu from 1918, so it is best to have a plan. If this doesn’t happen- awesome, it really isn’t a bad thing to be prepared if something DOES happen. Remember Katrina? Really bad tornadoes etc. can still really put us out for the count.

Having a plan, (if you are one of those who are scared) is like having a little sanity back. But more on this later.

There are two areas to think about/prepare for if something big hits us.
1. Have a plan for physical survival
2. Have plan for mental survival

Let’s talk about the 1st one:
There are plenty of websites out there that help you make a plan. I will summarize my favorites. has a 3 step plan. Get a kit, Make a Plan, Be informed

Get a kit:When preparing for a possible emergency situation, it's best to think first about the basics of survival: fresh water, food, clean air and warmth.
Recommended Items to Include in a Basic Emergency Supply Kit:
· Water, one gallon of water per person per day for at least three days, for drinking and sanitation
· Food, at least a three-day supply of non-perishable food
· Battery-powered or hand crank radio and a NOAA Weather Radio with tone alert and extra batteries for both
· Flashlight and extra batteries
· First aid kit
· Whistle to signal for help
· Dust mask, to help filter contaminated air and plastic sheeting and duct tape to shelter-in-place
· Moist towelettes, garbage bags and plastic ties for personal sanitation
· Wrench or pliers to turn off utilities
· Can opener for food (if kit contains canned food)
· Local maps
· Cell phone with chargers

Make a Plan:Your family may not be together when disaster strikes, so it is important to plan in advance: how you will contact one another; how you will get back together; and what you will do in different situations.
Family Emergency Plan
· Identify an out-of town contact. It may be easier to make a long-distance phone call than to call across town, so an out-of-town contact may be in a better position to communicate among separated family members.
· Be sure every member of your family knows the phone number and has a cell phone, coins, or a prepaid phone card to call the emergency contact. If you have a cell phone, program that person(s) as "ICE" (In Case of Emergency) in your phone. If you are in an accident, emergency personnel will often check your ICE listings in order to get a hold of someone you know. Make sure to tell your family and friends that you’ve listed them as emergency contacts.
· Teach family members how to use text messaging (also knows as SMS or Short Message Service). Text messages can often get around network disruptions when a phone call might not be able to get through.
· Subscribe to alert services. Many communities now have systems that will send instant text alerts or e-mails to let you know about bad weather, road closings, local emergencies, etc. Sign up by visiting your local Office of Emergency Management web site.

Be Informed:
Some of the things you can do to prepare for the unexpected, such as making an emergency supply kit and developing a family communications plan, are the same for both a natural or man-made emergency.
However, there are important differences among potential emergencies that will impact the decisions you make and the actions you take. Learn more about the potential emergencies that could happen where you live and the appropriate way to respond to them.

I would like to add that knowing where to turn for news and information is also a good thing. Figure out what is the best source in your area.

Psychological Health During and After a Disaster
This is less concrete and hard to define. How do you stay sane during a disaster? Well, you pretty much don’t. You use what you have to work with and figure the rest out in the moment. There are things you can do to be more mindful and focused to aid in getting through hard times. Some of the following are just suggestions and may not be appropriate in all situations. I will be including a list of them in my emergency kit as a reminder to myself if I need it.

Emotional Health
· Stress management
o Breathing exercises
o Visualization
o Meditation
· Think about and plan for what you CAN control
· Make sure you are taken care of, your loved ones and then others. It is hard to help someone if you aren’t.
· Avoid things like alcohol and drugs

The basic objective of disaster preparedness is resilience. Our community wants to survive and thrive. Being prepared is purely to do work pre-disaster to make it just a little more easy, physically and mentally if something happens. So, take care- and think about what is right for your family. It never hurts to be ready, but it can hurt if you aren’t.