VNA: Take responsibility, be ready for an emergency
September 18, 2015
During the hum of daily life, it can be hard to grasp the importance of emergency preparedness, especially when we haven't recently faced danger of wildfire or other disasters.
Turn on the TV for a reminder: Wildfires in California and Washington; flash floods in Utah; threat of infectious disease throughout the world. Emergencies that can endanger public health and safety aren't always conspicuous; consider the Gold King Mine spill in southwest Colorado.
"Many people think large-scale emergencies can't happen here,'" said Jim Johnsen, emergency preparedness and response coordinator with the Northwest Colorado Visiting Nurse Association. "Wildfires, floods and disease outbreaks certainly can happen here as well as other situations we may not think about."
National, state and local organization, are constantly working behind the scenes to plan how to respond to various emergencies and communicate important information to the public, but residents must assume a role in their own safety.
Preparing for an emergency essentially involves having a plan for yourself and your family, being aware and staying abreast of possible emergencies and having supplies to evacuate or shelter in place (remain at home or in another area until threat subsides).
"Being prepared is not about living in fear; it's about taking key steps to help lessen the fear of how you will respond," Johnsen said.
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• Enroll in the CodeRED emergency notification system. Receive alerts via land line, cell phone and/or email. For links to CodeRed registration, go to nwcovna.org/getready.php.
Overloaded phone lines or downed towers could prevent a person from receiving an evacuation notice. Use good judgment; monitor weather and listen to the radio for updates. If you receive an evacuation order, follow it. Otherwise, you will be putting yourself, as well as emergency personnel, in more danger.
• Make an evacuation plan and share it with your family. Include a meeting place outside your neighborhood. Designate emergency contacts outside the region that family members can call to keep track of each other if local phone connections are down.
• Put together a basic go kit. Include a three-day supply of water (one gallon per person per day plus water for pets) and food. It's also important to have any medications and a source of nonelectrical heat. A go kit may also include a battery operated radio, flashlight and extra batteries, cash, disposable cell phone and/or phone cards, list of contacts — doctors, family, neighbors and law enforcement, sleeping gear (pillows, old sleeping bags), extra clothing and shoes, important documents (copies of prescriptions, insurance documents, legal papers, etc.), identification, playing cards, books, paper and pens, and photos of family members in case someone is missing.
• Have a plan for horses, livestock and pets. Pet owners should have a go kit for their pet, including carriers, leashes, medication, litter and litter boxes, vaccination records and food and water. Plan where to take or stay with your animals during evacuation (shelters may not take pets), including pet-friendly motels, boarding facilities, friends and possible emergency animal shelters such as veterinarian offices and fairgrounds.
• Do a home inventory for insurance reporting. Photograph or video items and make a note of computer programs and other intangible valuables. Gather warranties, receipts and insurance policies and write down the make, model and serial number of electronics. Check your policy limits to be sure certain valuables are covered. Keep video/photos and paperwork in a fireproof or safe deposit box. Update your list regularly.
For more emergency preparedness tips and resources, go to ready.gov or nwcovna.org/getready.php.
Tamera Manzanares is marketing coordinator at the Northwest Colorado Visiting Nurse Association. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.