Crip Buzz: Emergency Preparedness — Are You Ready?

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Portlight Strategies’ #RUReady media blitz invited bloggers and emergency preparedness organizations to post about how people with disabilities can survive disasters.

Emergency Preparedness — Are You Ready?

House flooded after epic storm? No problem. This family has a plan.

House flooded after epic storm? No problem. This family has a plan.

I live in Northern Colorado, in an area beset by frequent power outages. We experience severe weather in the form of windstorms, thunderstorms, hailstorms, tornadoes and blizzards. We are also susceptible to wildfires. So emergency preparedness is a big deal for me.

As a 24/7 ventilator user, disasters place me at greater risk than my nondisabled counterparts. In addition to my ventilator, I rely on a great deal of medical equipment, much of it powered by electricity. From feeding pumps to power wheelchairs to a ventilator, our lives depend on electricity.

In the past six years, my home has experienced two major disasters — a tornado and flooding. During that same period, large wildfires have created unhealthy levels of smoke so thick that we could not see down the block.

My children and I primarily shelter in place whenever possible, but floods or another tornado could force us to evacuate. As a result, we have plans to both shelter in place, and to evacuate.

Here’s how we shelter in place:

• We have a natural gas powered generator. The generator does not power our entire house, but all the electrical circuits that power our medical equipment, plus the furnace and refrigerator. Most of our lights are powered, as are many of the outlets powering things like the television, computers and Internet router.

•  We always ensure that we have enough medical supplies — particularly G-tube formula — to last us as at least two weeks. We maintain a supply of bottled water, as well as plenty of food that could be cooked in either a microwave, or reheated with a Sterno can.

• We maintain a supply of diapers, wet wipes, hygiene products, gloves, first aid supplies, toilet paper, paper towels, and paper plates and plastic cutlery at all times. I always have a couple gallons of bleach available, as well as heavy duty gloves to help with cleanup.

• We try, as best we can within the confines of our insurance plans, to have at least a couple weeks supply of essential medications.

•  We are intentional and habitual about how we live our lives. I always try to fill the van with gas as soon as it is low, rather than waiting until the next time I want to leave. I buy dog and cat food before I am completely out. I use bottled water for the humidifier on my ventilator, so my stock of water is always in rotation. I refill prescriptions as early as insurance will allow so that we can maintain a stockpile of medications.

• I have a basement apartment where a back-up attendant lives. I know my neighbors so that we can get help in an emergency.

Carrie-Ann-Lucas-floodSheltering in place is not always possible — a tornado could knock out our natural gas supply, as well as electricity. More extensive flooding could force us to evacuate, as could a close wildfire. My family camps a great deal, so during summer months, our trailer remains packed with all our camping gear, which enables us to leave at a moment’s notice. In addition to camping gear, the trailer holds ventilator, feeding pump, and wheelchair chargers, along with all our disposable supplies such as diapers, wipes, feeding bags, ventilator circuits, tracheotomy supplies and G-tubes. We keep animal crates and pet food in the trailer as well. We keep all our medications in a box so that the medications can be grabbed at a moment’s notice to leave. I always have a to-go bag of ventilator and trach supplies. We can grab cases of formula in a moment’s notice as well.

Also, I maintain a list of hotels in the area that have generator power, so I can find a hotel room that we could use if need be. I just plan, plan for my plans to work, and plan for those plans to not work.
— Carrie Ann Lucas, www.disabilitypride.com/2014/04/01/emergency-preparedness-are-you-ready/

Here are a few helpful #RUReady links:
• Disaster and Emergency Planning for Seniors and Persons with Disabilities, www.disabled-world.com/disability/emergency/
• Floods: People with Disabilities — Disaster Safety, www.flash.org/peril_inside.php?id=42
• Portlight Strategies, www.portlightstrategies.org
• Sheltering in Place and Evacuation Checklist: www.phe.gov/Preparedness/planning/abc/Documents/PersonalPrepforPersonswithDisability.pdf

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