Many people view making preparations for emergencies as an isolated necessity and prepare only when there is an impending emergency. As more emergencies occur, such as the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy, it has become clear that it is critical to be prepared throughout the year. Advance planning is particularly important for people with Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA), and people with disabilities, who face additional challenges.
The following are some important tips to help those who have these challenges cope confidently and prepare for possible emergencies by acquiring needed supplies and devising plans in advance. It is essential to have an emergency plan in place, well before any such event occurs.
The first part of a comprehensive emergency plan should include creation of a contact list of family and friends. If possible, include contacts that do not live in the immediate area. Even if local phone service has been impacted, friends and family in other areas may be able to get through.
Designate a pre-planned meeting place with loved ones. To accommodate different weekday and weekend routines and schedules, it is a good idea to select two separate meeting places depending on when the potential emergency takes place.
Connecting with neighbors is particularly important for those living with a chronic condition, such as RA, in case extra help is needed during the emergency.
People with physical limitations should be aware of all entrances/exits in their homes. This is particularly important in apartment buildings. Assessing whether it is possible to go down steps and/or exit the building if the power goes out, are key considerations when devising a practical plan. Some individuals may want to consider relocating temporarily before a storm or other comparable event.
As the name implies, a go-bag is a bag that can hold necessary supplies and can be easily taken along in case of emergency. People with RA may find it easier to manage two smaller go-bags instead of a single large one, but the essential items remain the same. Check the contents of the go-bag every 6 months to make sure everything is up-to-date. Doing this at the same time as smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors are checked can make it easier to remember. Finally, store the go-bag in a place that is easily accessible.
People with RA or other disabilities can take several steps in order to make their homes safer. These are particularly important if the emergency involves widespread loss of electricity.
Maintaining communication is essential in any emergency. Having both a land-line and a charged cell phone is recommended. A lesson learned during Hurricane Sandy, was that although calls from cell phones weren’t working, text messages were going through.
In addition to stocking up on supplies, food and water, the environment should be as free of clutter as possible. This might mean taking such precautions as moving furniture or rolling up area rugs. A complete power outage will result in extremely dark conditions and walking may be hazardous, even in familiar surroundings.
People with RA or other disabilities should begin taking steps soon to prepare for possible emergency situations. As an event approaches, consider what special supplies and arrangements might be needed to get through the event. Planning ahead of time is the best way to weather the storm as safely as possible.
Visit these links for additional information and resources on how to best prepare for emergency situations:
Summary written by Lysa Petrsoric, MSW, MPH
Edited by Nancy Novick.