This column appears in the Nevada Appeal Tuesday health pages. It addresses topics related to the health of our community.
Last week the nation saw the devastating results of Hurricane Harvey in Texas; destroyed homes, displaced families, hospital facilities evacuating, and death. While we do not experience hurricanes in Nevada, we are prone to floods, fires, and earthquakes; all of which can be devastating. Since an emergency can happen anytime, it is important for you, your family and friends to prepare a plan now.
September is National Preparedness Month. The theme this year is, “Disasters Don’t Plan Ahead. You Can.” Having a plan can minimize the impact an unexpected emergency may have for you and your loved ones. Preparing an emergency plan does not have to be overwhelming, but rather an easy four-step process.
Step 1: Have a Conversation
Find 30 minutes, the length of a sitcom television show, to have a discussion with your family, loved ones, or other people you care about. Discuss the following questions:
How will I receive emergency alerts and warnings?
What is my shelter plan?
What is my evacuation route?
What is my family/household communication plan?
There are many ways to receive emergency alerts. The most common being the Emergency Alert System (EAS) announcements through radio or television. Other methods include Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEAs) which are utilized by state and local public safety officials, the National Weather Service, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, and the President of the United States. WEAs look like texts messages and are no longer than 90 characters in length. Mobile users are not charged for receiving these messages and WEAs do not disrupt texts, calls or data usage.
When creating an emergency plan, shelter options should also be discussed. Depending on the emergency situation, your options may include staying where you are or seeking shelter with relatives, at hotels, or mass care shelters. Your shelter decision will vary based on the hazards you are facing and the instruction of local, state, and federal emergency officials.
Evacuation plans should be created for the types of disasters common in our area. A place to go after you evacuate should be agreed upon with your loved ones. If you have pets, identify a place where they may be accepted during an evacuation. Most public shelters will only allow service animals. It is important that you follow instructions from your local officials and follow recommended evacuation routes as short cuts may be hazardous or closed off. Leaving early during an evacuation will help you avoid being trapped in traffic.
Communication is key in any emergency plan. Household and emergency contact information should be entered in everyone’s phone directory and a paper copy should be made. A paper copy should also be stored in wallets, purses and a central location within your home. Text messaging, if available, is the best way to communicate during a disaster as it does not create mobile network congestion. If a phone call is necessary, it is best to keep it brief and only relay vital information.
Step 2: Consider Specific Needs in Your Household
As you prepare your plan, make sure it accounts for your specific daily needs and responsibilities. Consider factors such as special dietary needs or caring for your children and pets. Include plans for medication and durable medical equipment needs such as eye glasses, oxygen, wheelchairs, or dialysis. Be sure to work with your loved ones and healthcare providers to ensure you have what is needed to sustain everyone in your household for one week.
Step 3: Fill Out a Family Emergency Plan
While you can certainly create your own family emergency plan, there are also numerous templates available on the internet. One template, available in multiple languages, can be found at https://www.fema.gov/media-library/assets/documents/22187.
Step 4: Practice Your Plan with Your Family/Household
Once you have your plan, be sure to practice it! Whether you know an emergency situation is heading your way or it happens suddenly, you will always be more prepared if you have a plan. Your emergency plan can be created in minimal time and it will provide you and your loved ones peace of mind.
Carson City Health and Human Services (CCHHS) wants you to be prepared for any type of disaster. For more preparedness tips and information, please visit our website at http://gethealthycarsoncity.org/ or visit us at www.facebook.com/cchhs.
This article is part of a four-part series developed for National Preparedness Month. The Public Health Preparedness (PHP) Division at CCHHS is funded entirely by federal grants from the Centers from Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response (ASPR), awarded each year through the Nevada Division of Public and Behavioral Health. CCHHS works closely with partner agencies such as fire, healthcare, social services, and non-profit community organizations to accomplish preparedness activities across Western Nevada.