The Importance of Emergency Preparedness
At Nurses With Heart, we talk quite a bit about taking preventative measures for good health, from getting your flu shot annually to making sure you stay hydrated daily. Prevention takes on many forms to protect your health and preparedness is something that we can also include in our daily lives. Regardless of where you live, a disaster can strike at any time and it is important to prepare for a variety of situations in which you may find yourself.
Dust Off Those Documents
According to the Centers for Disease Control, more than half of Americans do not have important documents readily available. In the event you had to quickly vacate your home, do you have fast access to your birth certificate, social security card, and passport? Or would you have to sift through files and boxes to get vital information that proves your identity? Part of our consultations for home care include reviewing important information that families require (like Advance Care Plans) and making sure they are readily accessible. Some families are very well prepared, but their documentation is in a lock box at their bank, which makes it pretty hard to access if an emergency occurs at 2AM! This is why it is important to at least have copies available in a folder which can be quickly accessed and easy to transport (fire & water proof safes are great, but can be difficult to move in emergent situations). The best course of action is to make copies of your important documents, organize them by family member, and place them in a waterproof packet in your emergency kit. Examples of documentation to include are:
- Birth certificate
- Driver’s license
- Immigration information
- Medical history & physician contacts
- Current medication list
- Insurance policies
- Credit cards (photocopies of both front and back, so that you have easy access to the credit card company’s emergency hotlines)
- An emergency contact list (in our age of cellular devices, most people do not know their family member’s phone numbers, so it is important to have a current list of those you may need to contact)
Stock Up On Supplies
In addition to not having fast access to important documents, most Americans also do not have emergency supplies in their homes, either for use when they have to remain at home or to grab if they have to leave their home quickly. In cases of blackouts and storms, people may have to remain at home, or in the event of flooding or fires, they may have to quickly leave, which is why it is important to prepare and maintain an emergency kit for these situations. Supplies that are essential to stock up on are:
- At least three days of non-perishable food and water in your home (be sure to have pet food set aside for your furry friends!)
- Candles & matches
- An emergency car kit, complete with jumper cables, tool kit, and additional clothing for extreme weather changes
- A first aide kit for both your car and your home
- If you do have to quickly leave your home, make sure that your medications are stored in one location so they can easily be collected – pharmacies may not be open or may not have access to information about medication refills
Prepare a Plan
Once you have your vital information easily accessible and emergency kits prepared, the final action is to create a plan for your family! If phone lines go down and you are separated from your family, a simple plan outlining where to meet will make it easier to reunite. It is important to choose a location that is easy to access for all family members. Keep in mind that people may need to walk to your chosen spot, so be sure to take this into account for those who need physical assistance for ambulation. For more information on how to make a plan, check out ready.gov for great tips on disaster preparedness.
Preparing for the worst can seem overwhelming, which is why it is essential to do a little at a time. Create a checklist for what you need and a weekly goal for what you will complete. You can prepare for an emergency in as little as a month by meeting small weekly goals. Be sure to check your kits periodically to review expiration dates and ensure information is up to date. Good health comes from prevention and preparedness, so get started today!