Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Emergency Preparedness for People with Disabilities

A post by Susie over at The Canary Report combined with a severe Arctic air mass descending on Montana this week (temperatures hovering around -20F) got me thinking about "emergency preparedness. " What comes to mind when you hear this phrase? Emergency packs in the car and coat closet? Food storage? A list of phone numbers on the frig? A family emergency plan? All of those things have to be adapted for people with disabilities.

I sometimes get a little bit paranoid about this. The thought of going to a public shelter for help sends chills down my spine. Not only would they not have any food I could eat, but they would undoubtedly use cleaning and first aid products to which I would be sensitive, not to mention the personal care products used by the mass of people all in one location. On the other hand, the idea of freezing to death in a heatless home (or worse yet, in a tent on my front lawn if we had an earthquake) doesn't exactly warm my heart either. And these are only MY concerns. What about all the other disabilities people deal with, like diabetes, MS, etc.? The Red Cross and local health care agencies can accommodate some of these people, but certainly not all in a mass emergency. It's up to us as individuals to prepare for our own (and our family's) needs. So here are a few ideas that give me peace of mind. I'd be really interested to know how others have tweaked their family emergency plans to meet individual needs.

Food storage: while other people store wheat, we store brown rice, about 200 pounds of it in the freezer (it will go rancid at room temperature). We follow the old adage: store what you eat and eat what you store.

Emergency packs: the emergency packs in our vehicles and coat closet contain gluten free foods, fragrance-free toiletries and plenty of Pepto Bismal tablets (just in case I do get some gluten in something). I also need to include laundry detergent, so I could at least hand wash my own clothes if necessary. I am so concerned about this that I actually have an extra emergency bag in the trunk of my car containing nothing but gluten free food, enough to last me a week or two, and a case of bottled water (I can't tolerate treated water).

Camping supplies & clothing: we have camping supplies and emergency clothing in our garage in case our home was damaged. A tent would be a much safer place for me (even in the winter) than a public shelter.

Heat: we have a large stone fireplace in which we have installed glass doors (to keep smoke out of the house), and we have a large stack of firewood available. Burning wood in the fireplace to keep warm would certainly cause me some problems, but would not be as life threatening as freezing to death, so this is a compromise. And, of course, if we were burning wood, I wouldn't be able to go outside, where the smoke would really make me ill.

Emergency plan: we have family and friends who live in other parts of the valley who would take us in for a few days if need be. Their homes are fairly safe for me, and we would bring our own food. In the seven years we have lived here, the entire valley has not lost power at the same time, so this is a viable option most of the time.

List of things to grab: these are things we use all the time, but would grab if we were leaving the house, like my vitamin powder, RWO's daily medication and the thumb drive containing the book I'm writing. (I should add the raspberry jelly filled candies RWO bought me for Christmas--wouldn't want to leave those behind!)

I'm sure I'm missing something, so I'm going to think on this some more. Hmmmm........


Bruce said...

Some easy-to-prepare items you might want to consider are canned meats, canned cheese and canned butter (along with the usual dry foods).

You can find an assortment at http://www.internet-grocer.net/product.html

Susie said...

Even though I wrote the post that inspired your post here, I am totally unprepared for any type of disaster! That's pretty bad seeing as we are subject to an active volcano, tsunami, hurricanes, fire, floods, earthquakes, and the power goes out all the time! We have such a high probability of natural disaster here that we are the only county in the state of Hawaii with our own civil defense agency. Aside from a few extra batteries and a hand crank radio, I'm really not ready at all. Thanks for your follow up post, I guess I better start thinking about this.

CatherineWO said...

Thanks for the tip, Bruce. I've never heard of canned butter or cheese, but I will definitely check it out.

It was my food issues that first motivated me to do something, Susie, but the MCS offers its own challenges as well. Several years ago, my husband and I got caught in a blinding blizzard a couple of hours from home and had to stop for the night at an out-of-the-way motel. I was really happy to have some food with me that I could eat. I forgot to mention that I also keep a blanket and pillow in the car that are safe for me. Bedding is a big issue for me chemically.

A Girl Called Dallan said...

Preparedness talk just. freaks. me. out.

I need a low-stress environment to be well. My best strategy, I guess, is to take things one at a time as they come, and to never dwell on "what ifs."

Fortunately, my husband has been stocking up on all the recommended items. My favorite thing is that we have several hundred pounds of rolled oats in our pantry. I just hope that whatever comes, the Lord will arrange for me to stay in my home.

I don't envy your particualar challenges. Thanks for sharing.