For most of us, preparing for a disaster, whether it’s of the natural or man-made variety, is not something we spend a lot of time contemplating. Given that by their nature disasters can’t be predicted, that’s a mistake. While we can’t know the exact moment a disaster will strike, we can be sure of one thing – one will eventually occur, whether or not we’re prepared.
Natural disasters come in many forms; physical phenomena caused either by rapid or slow onset events that can be geophysical (earthquakes, landslides, tsunamis, and volcanic activity); hydrological (avalanches and floods); climatological (extreme temperatures, drought, and wildfires); meteorological (cyclones and storms/wave surges); or biological (disease epidemics and insect/animal plagues). Man-made or technological disasters can include complex emergencies/conflicts, famine, displaced populations, industrial accidents, and transport accidents) which are events that are caused by humans and occur in or close to human settlements.
In Southern California, there are certain categories of disasters that are more likely to occur than others, such as earthquakes, landslides, flooding, and wildfires. While you may not be able to predict with certainty when these types of events will happen, you can be prepared for when they do strike.
Earthquakes – the sudden, rapid shaking of the earth – are caused by the shifting and breaking of underground rock. While they can happen anywhere, certain areas in the United States are more at risk than others. These areas include California, Alaska, and the Mississippi Valley. Earthquakes happen without warning and can cause considerable damage, including causing buildings to collapse and heavy items to fall; causing fires and damaging roads; and causing avalanches, landslides, and tsunamis.
There are several things you can do to prepare for an earthquake:
- Secure items, such as television sets and items hanging on walls
- Store heavy and easily breakable items on low shelves
- Practice Drop, Cover, and Hold On with your family, friends, and coworkers
- Drop to your hands and knees
- Cover your head and neck with your arms and crawl as far as needed to reach cover from falling materials
- Hold On to sturdy furniture until the shaking stops
- Develop a family emergency communications plan that has at least one out-of-state contact
- Plan a safe place to meet if you get separated
It’s a good idea to prepare an emergency kit and have it ready to go at all times, so you’ll be ready for any disaster. Your kit should have enough food, water, and other supplies to last for at least 72 hours. Here are some basics to help you put together your kit:
- Water – include one gallon of water per person per day, for drinking and sanitation
- Food – have at least a three-day supply of non-perishable food
- Battery-powered or hand-crank radio and a NOAA Weather Radio with a tone alert
- First aid kit
- Extra batteries
- Whistle to signal for help
- Dust mask to help filter contaminated air and plastic sheeting and duct tape to shelter-in-place
- Moist towelettes, garbage bags and plastic ties for personal sanitation
- Wrench or pliers to turn off utilities
- A manual can opener to use for food
- Local maps
- Cellphone with chargers and a backup battery
Here are other items you should consider adding to your kit, depending on your individual needs:
- Prescription medications
- Non-prescription medications, such as pain relievers
- Glasses and contact lens solution
- Infant formula, bottles, diapers, wipes, diaper rash cream
- Pet food and extra water for your pet
- Cash or traveler’s checks
- Important family documents such as copies of insurance policies, identification, and bank account records saved electronically or in a portable, waterproof container
- Sleeping bag or warm blanket for each person
- Complete change of clothing appropriate for your climate, and sturdy shoes
- Household chlorine bleach and medicine dropper to disinfect water
- Fire extinguisher
- Matches in a waterproof container
- Feminine supplies and personal hygiene items
- Mess kits, paper cups, plates, paper towels, and plastic utensils
- Paper and pencil
- Books, games, puzzles or other activities for children
After you’ve assembled your kit, don’t forget to remember to maintain it so it will be ready when you need it. Here are some easy ways to do that:
- Keep your canned food in a cool, dry place
- Store boxed food in tightly closed plastic or metal containers
- Replace expired items as needed
- Re-think your needs every year and update your kit as your family’s needs change
Other things you should think about before an earthquake hits:
- Look into getting an earthquake insurance policy, since standard homeowner’s insurance typically doesn’t cover earthquake damage
- Consider retrofitting your building to correct structural issues that could make it vulnerable to collapse if an earthquake hits
Since you don’t know where you’ll be when an emergency strikes, you should prepare supplies for your home, work, and vehicles:
- Home: Keep this kit in a designated place and have it ready in case you have to leave your home quickly, and make sure all family members know where it’s kept
- Work: Be prepared to shelter at work for at least 24 hours – your work kit should include food, water and other necessities like medicines, as well as comfortable walking shoes, stored in a “grab and go” case
- Vehicle: In case you are stranded, keep a kit of emergency supplies in your car.
Here at South Coast Post Acute, our guests are like family to us, so we have disaster plans in place that make the safety of our residents our top priority. We follow the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) emergency preparedness requirements for long-term and intermediate care communities. If your loved one is in a post-acute care community, a hospital, or your home, you should be aware of the organization’s disaster plans or develop one for your home.
Here are five tips to help you prepare for a disaster.
- Develop a family communication plan so you know the whereabouts and well-being of every family member is reported to a key person(s) during a disaster. South Coast and most hospitals will contact you in the event of an emergency but it is also smart to have a method of communication between you and your loved one.
- Plan how to keep informed of developments in the disaster situation by telephone, cellphone, computer, radio, or television. This will keep you updated on what is happening in your local area or the area where your loved one is located.
- If you are at home with a loved one, identify a meeting place away from home that is reasonably familiar and convenient for all family members. If your loved one is in the care of a post-acute community or hospital, that community’s personnel will coordinate with each family member on where their established “safe zone” is located so that you can reunite with your loved one.
- If you are caring for a loved one at home, it is important to maintain a supply of personal, health, and home supplies, including a 14 day supply of prescription medications, enough ready-to-eat food and water to last three days, first-aid supplies, candles and matches or flashlights, a waterproof container for essential documents, and items needed by older adults with a disability.
- Additionally, prepare a “bug-out” kit that is ready in case you need to leave quickly. This to-go kit should include a flashlight, extra batteries, battery-operated radio, first-aid kit, contact lenses or eyeglasses, medications, copies of prescriptions, photo identification, copies of essential documents (birth certificate, marriage certificate, Social Security card, and Medicare, Medicaid and other insurance cards), and a small amount of cash.
South Coast Post Acute is Southern California’s post-acute community of choice for post-acute rehabilitative, memory and long-term care health services. We’ve been providing a combination of world-class treatment with exceptional care for patients for more than 40 years. We deliver specialized, quality care with compassion and spirit. We treat patients like family and have an unparalleled passion and commitment to ensuring our patients receive exceptional compassionate care every time, every touch.
Real People. Remarkable Care. South Coast Post Acute.