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Staying Safe in an Emergency

By Rob Cicoria
CDPAP Peer Counselor

WDOMI wants all of our consumers, self-directing, designated representatives, personal assistants and their loved ones to stay safe these coming winter months and all year around. Included in this article are some of the basic steps people often forget when a pending, dangerous storm is approaching our area.

In certain areas that are prone to lose power, we often reach for candles; however, candles often do more harm than good. Drafts during a blizzard and Nor’easters can ignite window curtains, drapes and any debris. Most hardware stores sell those little battery operated clip-on tiny flashlights that can throw more light than candles, remain cool to the touch and can be moved place to place wherever light is needed; having a handful of these is a good idea!

Non-perishable foods canned or packaged are a necessity, if access to markets is blocked by snow, downed trees, and especially live electrical wires. Stay alive, by having enough non-perishable foods, and enough bottled water for a few days. Keep in mind, a gallon of clean water a day per person is necessary.

Don’t forget batteries and a radio for any weather updates and evacuation mandates! If you’re fortunate enough to own a generator, make sure you have plenty of fuel stored away from the house, and never run a combustible engine generator indoors—the fumes will kill you!

Last year when Hurricane Sandy hit, Rosie, my Personal Assistant, the dogs and I froze our butts off for five days, and it wasn’t even that cold. My brother Michael finally borrowed a generator, and the next day power was restored. Personal Assistants should never leave a quadriplegic or any other person in bed if they cannot transfer themselves; save those outside chores for when he or she are up in their wheelchairs.

First responders, police and the local fire departments should know exactly where and what room a disabled person sleeps in case a fire or any catastrophe happens. People with disabilities should not assume first responders have been notified by another agency or official. Call your local police and fire departments at least annually and remind them where you live and what special needs you may have in the event of an emergency. Ventilator users are particularly vulnerable—battery back-up is a must! Keep on hand enough medication for a week. Remember pharmacies may remain closed if their staff cannot get access to open. A cell phone and solar or battery-charger are also a good idea.

A first aid kit is essential during a dangerous storm, and a tourniquet or a makeshift one may come in handy if someone gets cut by flying debris. The best advice is to move to a well-populated area and away from large bodies of water until conditions are safe! If you find yourself at risk and there is no suitable emergency shelter, contact your local Department of Social Services and ask them to assist by arranging a “respite admission” at a nursing home or hospital in your community. Last year during Hurricane Sandy, one of our consumers lost power and when he went to the local emergency shelter, he found he was unable to transfer from his wheelchair to the cots that were provided. Remaining in your wheelchair is often a bad solution because of the risk of skin breakdown. A short-term stay at a nursing home may have saved this consumer from further health compromises and a longer stay in an institution.

FEMA recommends that besides relying on police, paramedics, and first responders, don’t forget to network by letting your friends, family and neighbors know your personal needs, and are able and willing to perform them. Network your P.A.s, family and friends—and especially heed evacuations!



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