11 March 2011

Health: Emergency Preparedness

In the late hours of yesterday evening, I learned that Japan had suffered a massive earthquake and hundreds, perhaps thousands were dead or injured. Tsunami warnings covered the greater Pacific Rim: Philippines, the Marianas, Hawaii, Guam and the west coast from Alaska through Canada on down to Mexico. My prayers and thoughts are with the Japanese people as they struggle to rescue the injured and bury their dead.

I thought this would be an appropriate time to review some ways to be better prepared for emergencies of all kinds - in effect protecting the health of ourselves, our pets and our families. Every region has its own typical natural disasters; I live in the San Francisco Bay Area, so earthquakes are our concern.

Adults should be vaccinated for the following diseases:
  • HPV (for individuals 26 and younger)
  • Meningococcal (for college students who live in dorms or other dormitory-style housing situations)
  • MMR (measles, mumps, rubella) if there is no evidence of immunity
  • Td Booster (tetanus and diphtheria) every ten years
  • Varicella (chickenpox) if no evidence of immunity
Basic Emergency Preparedness
I recommend purchasing a thin loose-leaf binder, thick page protectors and some 8.5 x 11 paper for this organizational project. Because of the extremely personal information to be contained in this binder, it should be easy to grab in an emergency, but not something easily accessed by anyone other than responsible household members.

Your first page should be a "You are Here!"directory:
  • Home Address
  • Names and all phone numbers (clearly labeled: cell, work, etc.) of all members of the household
  • Directions to your home
  • Names, addresses, directions and phone numbers for:
    • Physicians of every household member (clearly labeled)
    • Dentists of every household member (clearly labeled)
    • Veterinarian
    • Emergency Room
    • Urgent Care Clinic
    • Emergency Veterinarian (if your regular vet isn't a 24/7 clinic)
  • Local Police Department Non-Emergency phone number
  • Sheriff's Department Non-Emergency phone number
  • Poison Control
  • Wildlife/Animal Control
  • Local Fire Department
  • Water Department
  • Power/Utilities Company
  • Roadside Assistance or Auto Clubs (ex: AAA)
  • Insurance Agent and Claim Hotline (include policy numbers)
  • Telephone Company
You will want to include other important information such as social security numbers, medical insurance group or account numbers, insurance policy numbers, vehicle information (license and VIN numbers). Other information which may be helpful to have on hand include:
  • Contact information for nearest relatives
  • Pet vaccination records
  • Auto Mechanic
  • Contact information for neighbors or closest friends
  • Optometrist
  • List of medications
  • Credit Card numbers and expiration dates (don't forget the security code on back just in case!)
Fire-proof Safe
I believe everyone should have a fireproof safe. The following items should be kept in the safe:
  • Birth Certificates
  • Passports
  • Social Security Cards
  • Other legal documents: adoption papers, marriage/divorce papers, immigration documents, green cards, etc.
  • CD or USB drive backup of important computer files and financial information
  • Deeds
  • Titles to Vehicles
  • Spare keys to autos, house(s), and other locks
  • Emergency Cash (in a variety of bills)
  • Other Valuables (jewelry, coins, etc.)
Other Household Emergency Procedures
Know where and how to turn off the following items:
  • Hot Water Heater
  • Gas Main
  • Master Circuit Breaker
  • Water Main
You should keep fire extinguishers near:
  • Fireplace(s)
  • Stove
  • Barbeque
In a pinch, a box of baking soda will put out a grease fire on the stove.

Disaster Essentials
Years ago, we purchased some medium-sized trunks with wheels that are ideal for storing emergency gear. I've seen appropriate storage options at most of the discount and big-box stores. Your "trunk of relief" should contain the following:
  • Two (or more) gallons of drinking water
  • Food (ease of access and preparation - think energy bars, meal replacement shakes, instant soups, etc.)
  • Powdered sports drinks (You are under stress - you will need the electrolytes and minerals these provide. Try to find a low sugar version)
  • Pet food
  • Small bowls and cups (I like the collapsable silicone versions of these made for campers and hikers - they are lightweight and easy to pack)
  • Leashes for your pets
  • Rain Gear
  • Blankets
  • First Aid kit & pain relievers
  • Feminine hygiene products, tissues and toilet paper
  • Small ziploc bag of travel size toiletries
  • Flashlight
  • Duct tape, rope & batteries
  • Radio & Cell phones
  • Change of clothes and accessories (hats, boots, gloves, etc.)
  • Medications
  • Cash, ID and Emergency Binder
  • Pocket or utility knife
  • Deck of Cards or other portable games
If you are forced to evacuate, this box of emergency essentials should keep you and your family fairly comfortable and safe - even if you must stay the night in your vehicle. Also, try to keep your pets with you - they are at terrible risk if you have to leave them behind. Keep in mind, most shelters will not accept pets, even if they are in crates. You may also want to take a firearm with you (provided you have one and know how to use it).

Auto Safety Preparedness
A crisis is not the time to discover your spare tire is flat or that your windshield wipers are cracked. Keep your car in good repair - get regular oil changes, keep your tires inflated to the manufacturer's specs, check your battery for corrosion and replace it every five years, rotate your tires every 3-5,000 miles and replace them when the tread wears thin. Know where your car jack is and make sure you know how to use it. I like to keep a portable power pack in my car (like this one: http://www.duracellpower.com/portable-power/power-packs/powerpack-300.aspx) since it has an air compressor, enough power to jump start my car and plug-ins for phone rechargers.

Be safe out there everyone, and if you can, please donate to the Red Cross to help the people of Japan impacted by this terrible earthquake.

Addendum: Magical Tools & Other Valuables
Sometimes, I forget to add things that are specific to Pagans. I suppose that it is so ingrained, that I figure it goes without saying...

If you must evacuate your home, I recommend taking the following items with you:

  • Book of Shadows or other journals, books or oathbound materials
  • Cords (if your path uses them)
  • Athame or ritual knife
  • Other magical tools: wands, pentacles, chalices
  • Divination tools: tarot cards, runes, pendulums, yarrow sticks or coins, etc.
  • Images, statuary or other items critical to your practice

I have a medium-sized wooden trunk that can be easily locked and will protect my tools for travel. I also enjoy scrapbooking as a past time - it makes grabbing irreplaceable family photos much easier. Family photos will be especially important if honoring ancestors is a part of your practice.

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