August 27, 2010

Are you really ready if disaster strikes?

If mother nature goes on a rampage, are you prepared to take immediate action? Do you have a plan available to follow for most any situation mother nature or other natural disaster throws at you? For people with diabetes, this also means protecting your health.

Create a support network so that these people know what to do and what is expected. You need to have people you can rely on. People that will check on you and provide assistance if you are in need. Make sure that at least one person lives in a different town that will not be affected so that person can relay information and provide other assistance.

Be sure to know your needs.
  • This should be a large part of your plan. Know what you will be able to do for yourself and what others will need to do for you. You need to consider the potential changes to the environment.
  • Will you need help with personal care and is there special equipment you will need to be taken care of or take care of yourself? 
  • Will you be able to handle things if the water is cut off or you are unable to boil or heat it for several days? 
  • Will you need special cooking utensils to prepare food? 
  • Do you have special equipment that requires electricity and how will an electrical outage affect you? 
  • Will you be able to handle debris in and around your home and along your exit route? 
  • Will you need special transportation? 
  • Do you have a caregiver? Will you be able to do without this person or what type of help will you need? 
  • If there is an evacuation, what special arrangements will you need to leave your location? 
  • If you live in a building with an elevator, can you use the stairs? Do you know where the alarms are and can you reach them? 
  • This requires well thought plans. How will you communicate and call for help if you are hearing and/or visually impaired and your traditional methods are not working and/or not available? i.e., your hearing aid gets wet, you don't have an interpreter, and other sources are not available? 
  • If you need ramps, what will you do if they are unavailable, damaged, or inoperable? 
  • If you have a service dog, how will you care for it? Is there someone else who can provide care for the animal if you are unable to care for it? Do you have the necessary licenses updated and available so you will be permitted to keep your service dog in a shelter or other location outside your home? 
Do You Know Your Community?
  • After you prepare your inside the residence plan, look outside your home to the community at large,  
  • Find out what types of disasters are most likely,  
  • Find out what hazards exist,  
  • Find out what risks you are facing, 
  • To find out about hazards in your local area, go to, may not be the best, but previous link no longer exists.
  • In addition to hazards, know your community response plans and what transportation will be available in the event you are in need of this assistance, 
  • Also, learn how local authorities will warn you of possible disaster and how they will supply information during and after the disaster,  
  • Learn about NOAA Weather Radio and its alerting capabilities at, and have a weather radio where you can use it and keep fresh batteries on hand for it. 
Find out about special assistance programs that may be available and, if necessary, register with any you may need, including your local power company.

If you need help creating your plan, contact your local chapter of the American Red Cross or emergency management office.

Make Sure You Have a Plan.  

While it is not possible to plan for every contingency and even the best plans can fail, once you have created your primary plan, have an alternate prepared in order to ensure your safety.  
  •  Review your plan(s) with your family members or others you will depend on.
  •  Agree on a meeting place.
  •  Create a communications plan, which will include all phone numbers for family members, your support network, your out-of-town contacts, caregivers, and places you frequent such as work or school.
  •  Know the best escape routes and places of safety. Assess these locations both inside and outside of your home.
  • Make a plan for your pets and/or service animals. If you need to keep your service animal with you, determine which places are animal friendly before-hand and make a list that includes these places as well as others who may be able to care for your pet in case you are unable to. i.e. friends, family members, local veterinarians, etc. 
Know What To Do If Disaster Strikes...

If you are instructed to take shelter immediately, do so.

If you are instructed to evacuate,
  • Try to make your first option staying with family or friends, as they know you and your needs best and may best be able to accommodate you. 
  • Emergency public shelters can be your next option as a source of shelter and food, but not personal health care. 
  • If you have a caregiver and have to go to shelter, it will be best to bring the caregiver with you.  
In addition: 
  • Listen to the radio or television for the location of emergency shelters. Note those that are accessible to those with physical disabilities and those that have other disability friendly assistance features such as TTY lines. Hopefully you own a radio that is battery operated and you have fresh batteries on hand if power is off. 
  • Inform members of your support network and out-of-town contact of your intentions and intended destination plus approximate time table.
  • Shut off water, gas, and electricity if instructed to do so, if the shut-off places are available to you, and if time permits.
  • Wear appropriate clothing and sturdy shoes.
  • Take your disaster and diabetes supplies kits.
  • Lock your home, apartment, or other place of residence.
  • Use travel routes specified by local authorities and not shortcuts because certain areas may be impassable or dangerous.
  • Confirm upon arrival at an emergency shelter that it can meet your special care needs.
  • Inform members of your support network and out-of-town contact of your location and status. 
If you have a cell phone, make sure that you keep it fully charged and available to use in an emergency.

Now that you have a plan for your residence and your community, now think of your corner of the world. Depending on where you live, are you able to handle natural disasters like earthquakes, tsunamis, hurricanes, tornadoes, wildfires, winter blizzards, and other potential disasters.

Disaster is not predictable, but you still need to be prepared. While the above may not be your plan exactly, it does give you a guide and a place to start. A lot of the planning needs to fit your health and abilities to do some tasks.

Note: The above was adapted from FEMA and other sources and may not fit your situation completely. 

Remember that you need to plan for your area, and for the complete year.

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