Elders and Crisis Management
With Harvey, Irma, Jose, and Katia following one right after the other along the Atlantic coast, and wildfires burning closer to home here in Colorado and throughout the West, it seems as though crisis management has become standard practice in areas across the United States. However, many people are still grasping at straws when it comes to safety and awareness regarding a possible crisis situation. Few groups are more vulnerable than the elderly as lack of mobility, dementia, and other factors can make escaping a dangerous situation more treacherous. This week’s blog will cover the basics of evacuation during a wildfire, what to do, and how to use resources most effectively.
Step One: Arrange an Exit
Having a solid plan in place before a crisis arises is the best way to stay safe. In the case of wildfires, evacuation is often the best course of action. If you or a loved one is unable to drive, make sure to prepare accommodations accordingly. Have space in the car for them, a few belongings, and any medical equipment necessary. This means a walker or wheelchair, an oxygen tank, and all other medical devices and medications take priority space over things like clothes. Because emergency responders will already be stretched to their limits, they may take longer to get to you if a medical situation arises. For this reason, it is important to take all medical resources available to ensure that care can be given on-the-go. Additionally, plan quick escape routes, plot possible shelters or hotels along the way, and make a list of people to call once you’ve made it to safety.
Note: make sure to have arrangements for all members of the household including pets. The last thing you want is to be ready for evacuation only to realize you’ve forgotten Fido.
Step Two: Have A Go-Bag
A go-bag is a small duffel or suitcase which can carry essentials. A few outfits, important papers including medical information, travel food (i.e. granola bars, dried foods) and water, at least two week’s worth of medications, hygiene products, and a cell phone charger are the basics of any go-bag. Other supplies to keep in mind are sanitation items like toilet paper and wet wipes, a whistle to attract the attention of emergency responders if need be, pet supplies such as food and vaccination history, a flashlight and batteries, and cash and coins. Keep your go-bag in an easily accessible area so you’re ready to leave at a moment’s notice.
Note: as the weather changes, so should the contents of your go-bag. You don’t want to be on the road in October with outfits you packed in July. Warm clothes, a shovel, and tire chains should be ready for a winter evacuation, but sunscreen may be more applicable during summer months.
Step Three: Make Contact
Once you’re safely on the road evacuating the area, try to make contact with other family members and friends. This accomplishes three things at once. Firstly, it puts both your and their minds at ease knowing everyone is safe. Secondly, if there is no answer, you can call emergency responders and inform them that the person or persons you attempted to contact may be in trouble. Lastly, it saves responders time because there’s a good chance your loved ones would call emergency responders to your last known location if you do not make contact.
Step Four: Stay Informed
Listen to the news on the radio in the car or on TV at your hotel room or whatever your new, safe location may be. This way you can track the firefighters’ progress and you’ll know what course of action to take. Whether you have to keep traveling to outrun the fire or things begin to settle down, you’ll want to know as soon as possible when you can head home and assess any damage.