EMERGENCY PLANNING FOR CAREGIVERS
The tragedy of hurricane Katrina to lives and property is without equal in American history. Never has a national disaster in the U.S. had such an effect on so many people. One of the most heartbreaking aspects of Katrina was the number of lives lost due to the inability of many people to get disabled or infirmed loved ones out of their homes. In essence, many folks were trapped, and no one had a plan in place to assure their safety or help them evacuate.
No matter where you live, a caregiver must have a plan of what to do in case of a disaster.
It could be a fire, flood, earthquake or any other situation that requires moving your loved one to safety. Here are some essential tips that the savvy caregiver can follow when devising a plan.
The Boy Scouts were right when they made this their first maxim. Write out a plan of what you will do in the case of a fire, an earthquake (if you live in a quake-prone area), a hurricane, a tornado, or a flood. Note all the ways you and the person you are caring for can get out of the house and to a safe place quickly. Have a list of emergency phone numbers posted in several rooms in your house in case you are trapped. Also, write down your own address and phone number, as well as directions to your house or your loved one’s house. Many people forget this simple information when speaking with emergency dispatchers or family members over the phone.
Get a Cell Phone
Keep a fully charged cell phone in your house or on your person. The cheapest phone is fine, and you do not need a specific plan. All cell phones can call 911 without paying for an expensive subscription.
Modify your Living Space
This might seem radical, but reports from Katrina showed that many people unable to walk could not get out of their upstairs bedrooms, and those caring for them could not move them. So consider modifying your home or apartment by converting a main floor area, or area near a door to the outside, as the bedroom/sleeping place for the person needing care. Many lives might have been saved if people were able to get out before the flood.
When in doubt, don’t wait. Get out or get help at the first warning. Don’t assume the storm will miss you or that you can weather through a predicted natural disaster or storm. Call a family member or friend to help you and your loved ones evacuate before the disaster strikes. If no one is available, call the police or fire department, or contact your local Red Cross [note from Julie: link] or county government and ask for help. Even if the disaster passes by, you’re better safe than sorry.
Tragically, many people who died as a result of Hurricane Katrina assumed they could weather the storm as they had many times in the past.
Have the Right Equipment
If your loved one is on an oxygen machine that uses electricity to operate, make sure you have several large tanks of portable oxygen in the house in case the power fails. Consider purchasing a generator in case the power is out for an extended period of time. Have flashlights, a portable toilet, extra blankets, bottled water, and anything else you might need if the lights and heat are gone. Also make sure you keep your loved one’s medication in sealed plastic bags to prevent them from water damage.
Stay in Touch
Let your local police department know, today, that you are caring for someone and that you should be checked on in case of disaster. Make sure all your friends and relatives know where you are and how to reach you at all times. This is especially important if you are caring for an elderly or disabled person in your house.
Taking these steps can help assure that both you and your loved ones have the best chances of surviving if a disaster hits.