The following blog is a repeat of one I posted a couple of years ago, but it is still applicable today. With the devastating tornadoes and the resulting destruction which just happened in the Midwest, it should be a wakeup call to everyone that they need to be prepared for the benefit of themselves, their families and friends. It is probably not the last reminder you will receive from me on the subject, as people with disabilities are far more likely to be seriously impacted in the event of a major disaster. We live our lives 'on the edge' as it is, and the destruction caused by a disaster of any type is magnified when we are involved. I hope you'll take it to heart.
Original post from March 2011:
March Madness is upon us! It is the annual season of celebrating upsets, close calls, slam dunks, breakaways and watching the victors cut down the net from the rim. Nets also play other important roles this year, as will be verified by any losing goalie in the Stanley Cup playoffs or by any pro fisherman who fails to land a trophy catch. Notwithstanding their respective importance, the type of net that I will be addressing here is known as the “personal safety net.”
Why is that important? We have just witnessed a continuing series of natural disasters that included major earthquakes in New Zealand and Japan; flooding that devastated Australia and much of the eastern United States; tsunamis that drowned untold thousands of Japanese citizens and lapped against our shores, creating millions of dollars of damage; record snows in the Northeast and early killer tornadoes in the South. Personal safety nets are required for protection from the types of natural disasters that just occurred, as well as those that are predicted in our inevitable future.
This pulpit has been used to address the importance of emergency preparedness for people with disabilities in the past. Last November I posted Living on the Edge, which concerned the need to be prepared for all types of emergencies. Despite such warnings, I realize that human nature is to procrastinate. It is likely that many who are reading this blog still have not taken the necessary steps to ensure that they and their loved ones are prepared and protected when the unexpected happens, as it surely will.
Many families have escape plans that are as simple as designating a place to meet outside the house, and perhaps a distant relative to call or check in with in case family members become separated during an emergency. For some of us with disabilities, just getting out of the house and/or being able to call for assistance may be the most important part(s) of our plans. That emergency kit in my hallway closet won’t do me much good if I can't get to it when an emergency strikes. The same can be said for the three-day water supply that awaits an emergency in my kitchen pantry.
I admit to being one of those who will still be in bed long after a nighttime earthquake unless someone comes to my house to rescue me. If necessary to wait for the fire department or other emergency responders, it may be many hours or days before they get around to searching damaged structures; I'm not sure that I want to wait that long.
I'm also dependent on a telephone system that doesn't work when the power goes out, which is likely in the event of a major storm or significant earthquake. Since I live in the fabled Cascadia subduction fault zone in the stormy Pacific Northwest, I am virtually assured of some opportunities to deal with violent shaking and power outages as time goes on. Those who live anywhere near the thousands of faults that crisscross the state of California or the American Midwest share that same level of opportunity. Some of you who live near the rivers or creeks that will overflow as this winter's record snowfalls melt have similar concerns to deal with sometime in the near future.
It is not difficult to prepare for emergencies: it just takes a little time. Guidance is available in many locations on the Internet, beginning with the simple checklists that can be found at ready.gov or your local government emergency preparedness website.
Personally, there are a few things on those lists that are of extreme importance to those of us who may be stuck in bed or trapped in our houses immediately after whatever disaster strikes:
1. Make sure your neighbors know how to enter your house and check on you as quickly as possible after a major event. Family members or caregivers may not be able to travel right away, due to road and bridge conditions.
2. Give those same neighbors a list of nearby and distant family members who should be contacted in case you are unable to contact somebody to tell them about your situation. Remember that you may be carted off in an ambulance and not able to reach a phone to make those calls yourself.
3. Always carry cash and identification with you, as many stores will not be able to accept credit cards in the event of a widespread power outage.
4. Copies of important prescriptions, anda few days' supply of the medications needed to maintain your health, should be with you at all times. Remember that you might be traveling or in a vehicle away from home when a disaster strikes.
5. A list of information needed to replace important documents, such as driver's license numbers, bank account numbers, passport numbers, etc. should be given to trusted family members in case it is necessary to replace those items if lost in a flood or fire.
That may sound like a lot to do, but if you agree that it is important you can complete the above in an hour or two. That's a pretty cheap investment of time to assure that your personal safety net is in great shape. What are you waiting for?
© 2013 Michael Collins