Emergency Preparedness for Health & Safety

Emergency Preparedness for Health & Safety

Last night at sunset we stood in the local park and watched the flames of the Santa Barbara Gap Wildland Fire make their way down the slope of a nearby canyon. It was a truly awesome sight to see these tremendous bursts of flames as the sundowner winds fueled them on. And as we spent the night until the wee hours of the morning listening to the continuous news coverage announcing evacuations, I realized how ill-equipped the majority of us are for emergency situations. This theme of unpreparedness repeated itself as the news announcer took calls from listeners who were reporting their locations and situations. Many were frantically collecting their important papers and valuables or video-taping their home interiors to document for insurance purposes. Several had been given 30 minutes to collect items of importance and leave their homes. One woman reported “running around in circles” trying to get organized and get out in such a short amount of time. To complicate matters, many of us were experiencing wide-spread power outages caused by the ash and smoke short-circuiting the transformers. Although this is not an ergonomic issue, it can be a health and safety issue, which is related. And in lieu of all of the recent events attributed to global warming, I am going to deviate from our normal ergonomic channel and provide tips and information for preparing for a local emergency.

Have a plan. Know what to do and how to care for yourself and your family in the event that fire, police and emergency medical services may be delayed in responding.
  • Choose a location to reunite the family if you are separated
  • Choose a person outside of the immediate area who will act as the contact for all family members
  • Locate shutoff valves for water, gas and electricity and know how to shut them off before an emergency.
  • Make copies of vital records and keep them in a safe deposit box. Store the originals safely and have them gathered together in an accessible location in case of the need for a quick exit.
  • Keep exits accessible and clear.
  • Know the locations of the nearest police and fire departments.
  • Take photos or videos of your valuables and keep a copy with a friend or relative in another city or state.
Keep a disaster kit ready at all times. Place the following items in easy to carry containers. This is a partial summary of the most important items.
  • Food and water for at least three days
  • Water and a water purification kit
  • Non-perishable food – make sure you have a can opener as well
  • First aid kit and manual
  • Blankets or sleeping bags
  • A portable radio, flashlights and spare batteries
  • Essential medications
  • Extra pair of eyeglasses
  • Change of clothes
  • Extra pair of house and car keys
  • A fire extinguisher
  • Food, water and restraint (carrier or leash) for pets
  • Cash and change
  • Large trash bags, tarps and rain ponchos
  • Toilet paper
  • Sturdy shoes and gloves
  • Candles and matches and/or light sticks
  • Knife or razor blades
  • Tool kit including a wrench for turning off the gas, a screwdriver, pliers and hammer
  • Rope
  • Food preparation and consumption items (paper towels, plastic utensils, paper plates/cups)
If you have children:
  • Make sure that contact and emergency medical information is current and correct.
  • Be aware of the emergency plans of your school or day care center.
  • Make plans for someone to pick up your children if you are unable to get to them.
  • Have extra supplies for children including diapers, wipes, formula, pacifier, canned food and juices.
If you are elderly or have special medical needs:
  • Have a current list of medications, allergies, special equipment needs, medical information and contacts including your doctor, pharmacist and family members.
  • Have extra batteries in your emergency kit for hearing aids or other special needs equipment.
  • Install a security light in each room.
  • Keep pathways clear of clutter.
  • Have walking aids near you at all times.
  • Have a whistle near you to signal for help.
  • Have a system in place to have two people you trust check in on you after an emergency. Give them a spare key and show them where your emergency supplies are including special equipment needs.
A special thank you to all of the firefighters and support personnel who are doing such a tremendous job keeping our city safe.
Marji Hajic is an Occupational Therapist and a Certified Hand Therapist practicing in Santa Barbara, California. For more information on hand and upper extremity injuries, prevention and recovery, visit Hand Health Resources.

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