Earthquake and Emergency Preparedness

Without proper preparation for disasters, our lives can change instantly. According to Baldassare, Lopes, Bonner, and Shrestha (2014) of Public Policy Institute of California, only 33% of Californians claim to be “very knowledgeable” about how to prepare for a major disaster such as an earthquake. Many Californians—despite being at risk for earthquakes—do not take the steps necessary to prepare themselves mentally and physically for disaster. Older adults and individuals with illnesses or disabilities are especially disadvantaged when it comes to dealing with and recovering from emergencies. As such, it is important to take extra precaution to protect yourself and your loved ones.

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Creating an Emergency Supply Kit

A general rule of thumb for emergencies is to have supply kits with enough backup items to last you at minimum 3 days. In addition to having backup water, non-perishable foods, protective clothing, and electronics there are other things to have handy in case of emergencies (Emergency Preparedness for Older Adults, 2018; Sollitto, n.d.; U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Federal Emergency Management Agency, & American Red Cross; 2004):

  • At least a week-supply of medicine. If medications need to be kept cold and refrigeration is not possible, use coolers or ice packs. You can also store sealed medicine in your toilet tank (not bowl) as they are about 15-20 degrees cooler than the surrounding temperature (Hill, 2016)
  • Backup medical supplies, such as syringes or gauze
  • Mortar and pestle for crushing liquid medications that may harden and crystallize for easier consumption (Hill, 2016)
  • Extra eyeglasses and/or contacts and contact solution
  • Hearing aids and batteries stored in a container
  • If you or a loved one uses an electric wheelchair or scooter, have a manual as backup stored at a trusted individual’s home

For individuals with Alzheimer’s or dementia, there are some additional things you might consider for your kit (Disaster Preparedness for Alzheimer’s Caregivers, 2017; World Health Organization, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, United Nations Children’s Fund, & World Food Programme, 2004):

  • Incontinence supplies, wipes, and lotion
  • Something comfortable and familiar the person can hold onto, such as a pillow
  • Recent photos of the individual
  • Foods high in macronutrients—carbohydrates, proteins, and fats

medication

Furthermore, you should enroll the individual in the MedicAlert® + Alzheimer’s Association Safe Return® Program—a 24-hour nationwide emergency response service for individuals who may wander or be reported missing.

For individuals who require insulin in emergency situations, it is crucial to monitor your blood sugar regularly. If your blood sugar gets too high or low, contact medical personnel immediately (InDependent Diabetes Trust, n.d.; Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2019).

  • Store extra insulin in coolers or with ice packs—do not freeze it. Be sure to keep insulin away from direct heat or sunlight. If keeping insulin refrigerated or cool is not possible, it can be kept at room temperature (around 73.4 °F) for 28 days.
    • For up to 4 weeks, you can use opened insulin at room temperature. Afterwards, it should be discarded and replaced.

In addition to supplies, you should also have copies of important documents sealed and stored somewhere that is easily accessible, such as in a waterproof bag or folder. It is important to also laminate these files so that they are protected from wear and tear. If possible, take photos of these pieces of information with your phone or digital camera in case you lose access to the hardcopies. Here are some documents that are important to have at the ready should you ever have to evacuate on short notice (24 Hour Home Care, n.d.; Huntsberry-Lett, n.d.):

  • Do Not Resuscitate (DNR) Order: if you or an individual does not wish to be resuscitated, be sure to include a copy of their state-sponsored and physician-signed DNR order
  • Medical Power of Attorney (POA): if an individual has appointed you or someone else as their medical power of attorney—the individual that is able to make decisions regarding medical treatment should the principal be unable (Law for Seniors, n.d.)
  • If you have a religious affiliation, information regarding a local religious center and contact person
  • Legal documents (photo identification, birth certificate, social security, passport, vaccination records, marriage license, wills, deeds, etc.)
  • Copies of insurance cards (vehicle, medical, etc.)
  • Copies of credit and debit cards
  • Contact information for family members, caregivers, physicians, etc.
  • List of all medications whether prescribed or over-the-counter (with exact name and dosage), as well as the contact information for the pharmacy and doctor who prescribed the medication
  • List of allergies to food, medications, additives, and preservatives, as well as the severity of the reaction
  • List of information for medical devices like wheelchairs, walkers, and oxygen machines (including model numbers and vendors)
  • General description of medical conditions and medical history

It would also be a wise decision to elect to receive your benefits and pay your bills electronically, as a disaster can disrupt mail service. According to the U.S. Department of the Treasury, signing up to receive federal benefits via direct deposit to a checking or savings account or a Direct Express® prepaid debit card are two safe methods (U.S. Department of Homeland Security, n.d.).

Protecting Yourself during an Earthquake

During an earthquake, it is most important to protect your head and heck. Generally, you will want to drop onto your hands and knees to avoid being knocked over, cover your head and heck with one arm and hand, and hold onto something sturdy until the earthquake ceases. However, there may be extra precaution you need to take. Here are steps provided by Earthquake Country Alliance (n.d.a.) on how to “Drop, Cover, and Hold On” depending on where you are during an earthquake.

If Indoors

  • Avoid walls, glass (windows and mirrors), hanging objects, and large appliances or unstable furniture that may topple over.
  • Do not try to move more than 5-7 feet before getting on the ground. It is best to stay where you are during an earthquake
  • If you are seated and unable to drop to the floor: cover your head with both your arms and hold onto your neck with both hands

If Using a Wheelchair or Walker with a Seat

  • Lock your wheels, remain seated until the earthquake ceases
  • Protect your head and neck with your arms and hands, or with whatever is available nearby

In Bed

  • Remain in your bed. Lie face down and cover your head and neck with a pillow
  • Hold onto your head and heck with both hands

In a Store

  • Get next to a shopping cart or clothing rack and drop down, cover, and hold on. These may protect you from falling objects.
  • Stay clear of aisles

If Outdoors

  • Move to a clear area avoiding power lines, trees, signs, tall buildings, vehicles, etc.
  • Drop down, cover, and hold on

If Driving

  • Pull over to the side of the road that is clear of overpasses, bridges, power lines, trees, signs, etc.
  • Set the parking brake
  • Stay inside the vehicle until the earthquake ceases
  • Cover and hold on

protect yourself during earthquakes

Emergency Evacuation

During an emergency, it is of utmost importance that we know how to safely assist and evacuate individuals with hearing, vision, or mobility impairment. Do not use elevators, and remember that other hazards (such as debris or loss of electricity) may affect the safety route. Furthermore, should service animals be present during an evacuation, ensure that they are not separated from their masters (University of California, San Diego, 2014; Vanderbilt University, n.d.).

Assisting Individuals with Low Vision or Blindness

  • Tell the individual what kind of disaster is taking place and offer your arm for guidance along the evacuation route
  • As you walk, indicate where obstacles or hazards are located
  • When you arrive at a safe point, describe your surrounding area to the individual and ask if any further assistance is needed

Assisting Individuals who are Hard of Hearing or Deaf

  • Gain the individual’s attention via body language or writing a note
  • Tell the individual of the situation and where to meet outside
  • Give visual instructions to advise about the safest route or direction by pointing toward exits or evacuation maps

Assisting Individuals with Limited Mobility

  • Ask the individual how they would like to be assisted in evacuating the area
  • If in an urgent situation where serious bodily injury is possible, consider whether they can be carried.
  • Learn about Evacuation chairs and see if there are any available to use on stairwells

Assisting Individuals who Use Wheelchairs

  • Ask the individual how they would like to be assisted in evacuating th
    e area
  • Ask if there are any concerns of pain points when being lifted
  • Ask if seat cushions or pads should be brought along
  • Ask others around to bring the wheelchair along. If the wheelchair is left behind, make sure it does not obstruct exit routes
  • Bring the wheelchair back to the individual as soon as possible

emergency exit

If you receive personal care assistance, your assistant should remain with you during any evacuation. If your personal care assistant works with a home care agency, check if there are any special provisions for emergencies such as providing services at another location (like an emergency shelter) (West, 2012; U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Federal Emergency Management Agency, & American Red Cross, 2004). Nancy West (2012) of Muscular Dystrophy Association says that if you are unable to receive such provisions, local, state, and federally funded programs may be able to offer assistance. As an extra measure, find and contact alternative providers as backup (Sollitto, n.d.).

Furthermore, it is largely possible that phone lines may be unavailable due to surges in calls which can take normally serviced regions offline. Remember to only use your cellphone or phone line to call 9-1-1 for life-threatening emergencies; text messages or even email may be better to use to let your loved ones know how you are doing (Cellular Telecommunications Industry Association, n.d.).

Keiro’s Call to Action

Although it is unknown when the next big quake will hit Southern California, living near the San Andreas Fault Line poses a great risk to us all. Discuss having an emergency preparedness plan with your loved ones so that everyone knows what to do and how to contact each other in case of unplanned disasters. Reference the lists provided above to know what to keep in your supply kit and how to protect yourself and loved ones in the face of danger. Cover all bases, whether they are financial, legal, or medical. Emergencies can affect entire communities, and as such it is our duty to not only prepare ourselves but also our friends and family with the right resources and tools to face such unforeseeable events.

 


Resources

  1. 24 Hour Home Care. (n.d.). Emergency Checklist for Seniors and Caregivers. Retrieved July 17, 2019, from https://www.24hrcares.com/emergency-checklist-for-seniors-and-caregivers/
  2. Baldassare, M., Lopes, L., Bonner, D., & Shrestha, J. (2014, October). Disaster Perceptions and Preparedness. Retrieved July 17, 2019, from https://www.ppic.org/publication/disaster-perceptions-and-preparedness/
  3. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2018, May 7). Emergency Preparedness for Older Adults. Retrieved July 17, 2019, from https://www.cdc.gov/features/older-adult-emergency/index.html
  4. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2019, March 1). Managing Insulin in an Emergency. Retrieved July 16, 2019, from https://www.cdc.gov/diabetes/library/spotlights/managing-insulin-emergency.html
  5. Disaster Preparedness for Alzheimer’s Caregivers. (2017, May 17). Retrieved July 16, 2019, from https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/disaster-preparedness-alzheimers-caregivers
  6. Earthquake Country Alliance. (n.d.a). Step 5: Drop, Cover, and Hold On. Retrieved July 16, 2019, from https://www.earthquakecountry.org/step5/
  7. Earthquake Country Alliance. (n.d.b). Earthquake Protective Action Postcard [Digital image]. Retrieved July 16, 2019, from https://www.earthquakecountry.org/library/Earthquake_Protective_Action_Postcard_English.pdf
  8. Emergency Preparedness for Older Adults (2018, May 7). Retrieved July 16, 2019, from https://www.cdc.gov/features/older-adult-emergency/index.html
  9. West, N. (2012, August 12). How To Get Personal Care Assistance in Emergency Shelters – A Quest Article. Retrieved July 17, 2019, from https://www.mda.org/quest/article/how-get-personal-care-assistance-emergency-shelters
  10. Hill, C. (2016, July 22). 6 Tips for Storing Prescription Medications for an Emergency. Retrieved July 17, 2019, from https://intermountainhealthcare.org/blogs/topics/live-well/2016/07/6-tips-for-storing-prescription-medications-for-an-emergency/
  11. Huntsberry-Lett, A. (n.d.). The Emergency Medical File Every Caregiver Should Create. Retrieved July 16, 2019, from https://www.agingcare.com/articles/the-emergency-medical-file-every-caregiver-should-create-428239.htm
  12. InDependent Diabetes Trust. (n.d.). Storing Insulin. Retrieved July 16, 2019, from https://www.iddt.org/about/living-with-diabetes/storing-insulin
  13. Law for Seniors. (n.d.). The Importance of Assigning a Medical Power of Attorney. Retrieved August 6, 2019, from https://www.lawforseniors.org/topics/planning-ahead/104-the-importance-of-assigning-a-medical-power-of-attorney
  14. Sollitto, M. (n.d.). 12 Tips to Prepare the Elderly for Disasters. Retrieved July 16, 2019, from https://www.agingcare.com/articles/elderly-disaster-emergency-preparedness-145628.htm
  15. U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Federal Emergency Management Agency, & American Red Cross. (2004, August). Preparing for Disaster for People with Disabilities and other Special Needs. Retrieved July 16, 2019, from https://www.fema.gov/media-library-data/20130726-1445-20490-6732/fema_476.pdf
  16. U.S. Department of Homeland Security. (n.d.). Seniors. Retrieved July 16, 2019, from https://www.ready.gov/seniors
  17. University of California, San Diego. (2014, July 8). Emergency Evacuation for People With Disabilities. Retrieved July 16, 2019, from https://blink.ucsd.edu/safety/emergencies/preparedness/get-ready/disabilities.html#Know-what-to-do-during-an-evacu
  18. Vanderbilt University. (n.d.). Evacuation for persons with disabilities. Retrieved July 16, 2019, from https://emergency.vanderbilt.edu/vu/quick-ref-guides/evacuation-disabled.php
  19. World Health Organization, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, United Nations Children’s Fund, & World Food Programme. (2004). Food and Nutrition Needs in Emergencies. Retrieved July 16, 2019, from https://apps.who.int/iris/bitstream/handle/10665/68660/a83743.pdf?ua=1