What could be more personal than, well, personal preparedness? It’s everyone’s individual responsibility to be prepared and build resiliency into the communities we love. It’s of course no different for people with special needs and/or different abilities. Whether you’re the guy that crowd surfed to the stage in his wheelchair last weekend at the music festival or the violinist with the guide dog, EVERYONE needs a plan that fits them.
What are you planning for? Well for starters, think about where you live. Know what could happen in your area. It goes without saying that every day is Earthquake Day here in California. What else is a hazard to your home or where you work? The California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services has a great “My Hazards” web page that uses your zip code, address or a nearby landmark to clearly define the most likely hazards you will experience. Try it and tell your friends. Their hazards may be different than yours.
If you are deaf or hard of hearing, you’re not going to be able to use the one voice line at the emergency shelter. So how will you reach out to friends and loved ones? Keep your phone charged so you can text.
- Put an extra charger in your go-bag just for emergencies.
- Buy a go-bag backpack with a solar charger, or an external solar charger so you can always have a little power to communicate with people.
- Pencil and paper. Just a small amount, in the bag.
- Follow the alerts on twitter.
San Francisco is one of the many cities that send out emergency information via text on their SFAlerts account. Check your community to find out if they have a similar service. Another way to keep informed and let others know what is going on with you is through Twitter. You can start by following emergency update feeds such as CalOES, your local Red Cross, CalFire, the CDC, and the USGS earthquake feed. Also, we are pretty sure that if an earthquake happens, Austin Elliot at the Trembling Earth will be talking about it. With all this information at your fingertips, you might end up being the most informed person in the room!
Enlist your friends.
That’s what friends are for…. It’s not just a great Dionne Warwick song. Your friends should be a part of your plan! Out of the hundreds of your Facebook friends, pick a few that you can look to for help if something goes pear-shaped. Better still, talk to your neighbors. Geographic nearness is a good test of who is best to assist you after an earthquake.
- Be sure to ask at least two different, unrelated neighbors to be your disaster-buddies, in case one of them is out of town when you need assistance.
- Give them each a key, in case you’re unable to get to the door.
Are you going to need assistance getting out of your house? Do you have equipment that requires power, but will you need help to start up your emergency generator? Don’t be shy! Talk to your friends about how they can help you the best. That IS what friends are for!
Practice DCHO and evacuation.
Make sure your service animal has his or her own go-bag & emergency kit, that includes vaccination records.
And make sure your service dog, monkey or elephant knows what to do, and what not to do, during an earthquake. When you dive under the table for drop, cover and hold on, you don’t want your dog trying to pull you out and getting you back in your chair. Make sure there’s a way Fluffy The Service Elephant knows the difference between falling down and diving for safety.
- Practice drop, cover and hold on with your service animal. Both your noggins need to stay protected from falling objects.
- Keep a pet go-bag and emergency kit.
- Practice getting out of the house if there’s no electricity.
If the electricity is out and you’ve got an elevator to navigate, an electric chair, or can’t hold a flashlight, practice getting out of the house now while it’s daylight and the electricity works. Figure out if your walker or your dog needs its own headlamp.
Let local services know you’re there.
Some local emergency offices, such as the LA City Fire Department’s ReadyLA have systems in place to identify people that may need additional assistance during emergency events. Give yours a shout and see what they can do to help you out.
- Keep a paper list of emergency numbers in case you’ve only got your landline available.
- Team up and help out. Call your local CERT or Red Cross and volunteer.
You can also sign up for the Community Emergency Preparedness Information Network (CEPIN), and they can connect you online with local first-responders. Now is the time to make those connections, so when an earthquake strikes, your first-responder pals will know what you need.
Customize your earthquake kit.
There are lists of items you can use to build an earthquake kit and even resources that will sell you one pre-made, but you need to make sure that your kit is personalized for your needs. Think about your immediate survival first and then trick out your kit with additional supplies that you would want.
Consider resources you use on a daily basis that are likely to be unavailable at a disaster shelter. Keep a large kit that you can access if you are able to stay at home and a smaller one that you can take, or have a friend take, if you need to evacuate from your home or the area.
- If you use special utensils, be sure to put a few in your kit.
- If you’re not able to carry heavy items, put your earthquake kit in a small roller bag.
- Make sure you have your medication and other needed equipment for 72 hours in your earthquake kit.
- If you take insulin, or other temperature controlled medication, regularly, be sure to keep an insulated container in your kit, and a freezer pack in your freezer, so you can grab it and keep it cool when you use that go-bag.
- Put a photocopy of your prescriptions in your go-bag.
- Put a small pad and pencil your kit if you’re likely to need to communicate non-verbally.
- Include a thumb drive that has your important documents scanned, especially medical records and insurance information.
Take to the World Wide Web.
With phone lines dedicated to emergency services and connections spotty, social media may be the fastest way to reach out to those that can help you. During Superstorm Sandy in New York this year, emergency services were getting vital information from people in need of help.
- Learn to use email and text messaging so you can use them in an emergency.
- Connect to your friends, family and community on social media so you can share information without the hassle of clogged phone lines.
Practice using social media with adorable pictures of fluffy and updates about your delicious dinners. And then you’ll know how to use it and be able to let people know how you are and what you need, if anything, in an emergency.
BE PREPARED! It makes you feel good to know you are ready for anything, even if Sharknados are few and far between.
How have you tweaked your own earthquake plan to make it best for you?
More information can be found here at Ready.gov’s functional needs page.
Stasha Wyskiel is a board member for the American Red Cross Bay Area and has been a professional disaster planner for Fortune 500 companies for more than 15 years. Her opinions in this article are her own.