Wednesday, August 19, 2015

QOTD: Would You Stay Behind During A Natural Disaster?

Most of us will never experience a disaster like the one's in the preceding video.  However every year millions of people experience the devastating impact of hurricanes, tornadoes, snowstorms, floods and fires.  Few are prepared. 

Today's "Question of the Day" is primarily directed towards paid as well as unpaid caregivers, however anyone is welcome to share their response.  The question is, "Would you stay behind in a natural disaster and risk your own safety if you were unable to move a patient or loved one?" 

During my six years as a full-time family caregiver (Oct. 2006 - Dec. 2012)  for a person I considered this question many times.  Fortunately for me I had four years to prepare a disaster emergency plan before my my mother became bedridden.  Today I look back on three weather events that directly impacted my life.  I will also share tips on why every family caregiver should have a disaster emergency plan and how you should go about preparing one. 

A Look Back At Snowmageddon

My front yard with 3 ft + of snow

My backyard with snow drifts of up to 5'


 To view more of my Snowmageddon memories  click here

Here's the "Blow by Blow" courtesy of

"Dec. 26-27, 2010
The term 'snowmageddon' and 'snowpocalypse' originated with the first February blizzard of 2010, and stuck when President Obama used them. However, another severe snowstorm hit soon after on Feb. 9 and 10, and another struck later in the month. The nicknames are often used loosely to describe the winter weather for the month of February 2010.

Highest Snowfall:
February: 38.3 inches (97 centimeters) at Elkridge, Md.
December: 32 inches (81 cm) at Rahway, N.J.
The February blizzard also dumped a record-breaking 32.4 inches (82.3 cm) of snow at Washington's Dulles International Airport. However, that storm largely spared New York City. The Christmas Blizzard, however, brought 20 inches (50.8 cm) of snow to Central Park, while Washington was spared. New York City's record of 26.9 inches (68.3 cm) of snow, set in February 2006, still stands.

Number of States that Declared a State of Emergency:

February: 6

December: 6
A state of emergency in Philadelphia forced the cancellation of an NFL Sunday night football game during the December storm. The postponement prompted Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell to declare that delaying the game was further evidence of the 'wussification of America.'
The game was later played on a Tuesday night for the first time since 1946. The Minnesota Vikings upset the Philadelphia Eagles, 24-14."

Oh I remember it well.  At this point in her illness my mother was still somewhat mobile but only with the use of a walker.  She would need to be admitted to the hospital that February for a hernia and what her visiting nurse I am believed was a shoulder injury that resulted from being lifted by her arms after she had fallen.  Mom was clinically obese after years of taking prednisone for her respiratory condition it was never easy getting her back on her feet after a fall. 

Note to caregivers:  Lifting larger people, especially those who are considered obese, or people who are extremely frail by the arms can damage the shoulder joints.

My mother would need to be hospitalized again in January of 2012 and wouldn't you know it, 3' of snow again. 

A Look Back at Hurricane Irene

August 28, 2011, Irene hits Philadelphia

"At about 8 a.m. Sunday, meteorologist Bill Henley said that the worst of the storm has passed the South Jersey, Delaware and Philadelphia area. The hurricane was downgraded to a tropical storm as it reached Coney Island in New York about 9:15 a.m. But local flooding continues are water levels rise.

Mayor Nutter said Philly's been doing a great job so far staying safe during Irene.

'Keep doing what you've been doing,' Nutter said. 'Look out for each other, be safe, be calm. Don't make judgments that'll cause you to be in unnecessary harm.'

And perhaps, most importantly, he warned: 'If you don't have to be outside right now, stay inside.'

With severe flooding threatening much of the region and Hurricane Irene killing at least 10 people in four states as it moved up the Eastern Seaboard, Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter declared a state of emergency for the first time since 1986.'This could be the worst storm event to hit the Philadelphia area in 50 years,' Nutter warned.

About 139,000 area residents lost power as Hurricane Irene brought lashing rain and wind gusts of up to 54 mph at the Philadelphia International Airport. Tornado warnings were issued in southeastern Pennsylvania.

During a Saturday night emergency briefing the mayor said he expects the Schuylkill to crest at 15 feet and other creeks, rivers and streams to flood -- threatening nearby streets.

"That is historically significant," Nutter said of the Schuylkill. 'We have not seen that level of cresting since 1869.'

I remember this well too.  By this time Mom was bedridden and confined to her bedroom on the second floor of our home.  She hadn't been downstairs or outside of her home since returning from the hospital in 2010.  When The Weather Channel began predicting Hurricane Irene my biggest concern was the potential of a power outage.  A power outage would mean that we would not be able to use Mom's nebulizer to administer her respiratory medicine and I would need to adjust her hospital bed manually.  Thankfully our electricity stayed on.  Many of my neighbors were not as fortunate.

The Earthquake That Cracked The Washington Monument

Ok, an earthquake isn't actually a weather event unless it causes a tsunami, but it definitely should be considered in your disaster preparedness plan.  On August 23, 2012, an earthquake cracked the Washington monument and actually did damage to homes as far away as Philadelphia.  Mom and I were lucky, it only moved our refrigerator about a foot across our kitchen floor.

"The earthquake that hit the Washington region last year was probably a tremor that occurs about once every 2,000 years, a new seismic study of damage to the Washington Monument suggests.

And the overall impact of the quake, emanating from a previously unknown fault three miles beneath Louisa County, Va., was the biggest ever east of the Rocky Mountains, the U.S. Geological Survey said.

The assessments came as the Washington area marked the one-year anniversary of the 5.8-magnitude quake that terrified residents last Aug. 23."

Luckily, Mom and I weathered all of these events fairly well.  However, what would you do in these situations if you were caring for a person with cognitive or physical challenges and the worst possible scenario occurred?

Earthquakes,  snowstorms and hurricanes are just three of the types of natural disasters for which we all need to have a plan to weather. This is especially true for family caregivers, paid caregivers and the elderly.  

So now we return to today's question of the day for paid or unpaid caregivers: Would you stay with a patient/loved one in the event of a natural disaster? 

There's a scene in the film "The Day After Tomorrow" in the the character portrayed by actress Sela Ward faces just such a dilemma, a decision the every  nurse, school teacher and caregiver must be ready to make when a natural disaster occurs and you are responsible for the safety of another life as well as your own.  Are you psychologically prepared?

The following is information from the Australian Psychological Society on the importance of being psychologically prepared

What does being psychologically prepared involve?
Step 1: Anticipating the psychological reactions leading up to a disaster
Step 2: Identifying the specific feelings and thoughts
Step 3: Managing responses to the stress

The importance of being psychologically prepared

Being directly involved in any potentially life-threatening emergency situation can be genuinely terrifying. People often don't have prior experience of being in natural disasters or knowledge of just how stressful this can be. When people are under severe stress they are usually not able to think as clearly as usual and this can affect decisions and reactions. These are normal, although not always helpful, responses to a possibly life-threatening situation.

When people have a better understanding of their own likely psychological responses in natural disaster warning situations this can help them to feel more in control and better able to cope. Being psychologically prepared can assist people to think more clearly and reduce the risk of serious injury and loss of life or property. Being cooler, calmer and more collected can also be very helpful to family members and others who may not be as well prepared psychologically for what is happening.

Of course, it is unrealistic to think that people can be fully emotionally prepared for such stressful and confronting situations as severe natural disasters. However, being psychologically prepared can help in coping with the stress of the unfolding situation and can help to reduce the distress after the disaster has passed. This does not mean that people can be fully prepared for anything that may happen or that being psychologically prepared means being emotionally ‘bullet-proof'.

Being psychologically prepared also includes having realistic expectations that an emergency situation such as a bushfire or cyclone event can very quickly become unmanageable, unpredictable and life threatening. Being able to anticipate that such a situation could occur can help people to ‘let go' when necessary and leave the situation to the expertise of emergency services.

What does being psychologically prepared involve?

Once the household emergency plan has been set and practised and the necessary physical preparations have been made, we can turn our attention to psychological strategies for managing the stress of a threatening natural disaster.

Psychologists use a term called ‘stress inoculation' to assist people to prepare themselves psychologically for emergencies, which in other words means planning to be better protected from stress by working through the likely psychological reactions beforehand and learning strategies to cope. These strategies ‘inoculate' people against being overly anxious or overwhelmed by their emotional responses, and will help prevent being caught up in unhelpful thinking in an emergency situation. Obviously this approach will work better with some disaster events that may be more frequent and to some extent more predictable, but the psychological principles can be applied for any emergency.

The way people feel in highly stressful situations is strongly affected by the way they cope with the signs of physical arousal (e.g., racing heart beat, shortness of breath) and the thoughts that they are having (e.g., ‘I can't cope'; ‘We're going to get badly hurt'). These reactions and thoughts can make people feel anxious, hopeless or even angry, and while these feelings are understandable, they are not very helpful in an emergency situation. Being psychologically prepared means that these natural reactions to stress can be anticipated and managed to help people feel more in control and confident.

There are three main steps to being psychologically prepared for a threatening natural disaster:

Anticipate the anxiety and concerns that will arise.
Identify uncomfortable or distressing thoughts and feelings that may cause further anxiety.
Manage the responses so that the ability to cope remains as effective as possible.
An easy way to remember the skills involved in being psychologically prepared is to focus on AIMing for psychological as well as emergency household preparedness.

Read the rest of this article at:

A large part of being psychologically prepared to handle a natural disaster is having a plan.  The following information is courtesy of  If you are a caregiver I urge you to bookmark their website. 

 " Find out what could happen to you. By learning what disasters could occur in your community and what your risks may be (for example, living in a floodplain), you can prepare for the disasters most likely to occur in your area. Learn more by contacting your local emergency management office or American Red Cross chapter. Be prepared to take notes.
Ask the following:

• What types of natural disasters are most likely to happen in your community?
• What types of human-caused or technological disasters could affect your region?
• Ask about chemical emergencies, which can occur anywhere chemical substances are stored, manufactured, or transported.
• Find out if your home is in a floodplain. Check with your local emergency management agency.
• How should you prepare for natural and human-caused disasters?
• What can you do to protect your home and avoid or reduce the impact of the disasters that could occur where you live?
• Does your community have a public warning system?
• How will your local radio and television stations alert the community if there is an emergency?
• What do your community's warning signals sound like and what should you do when you are notified?
• If you care for young or elderly people or people with disabilities, how can you help them in a disaster situation?
• What might be some special needs to consider?
• What about animal care after a disaster? Pets (other than service animals) usually are not permitted in public shelters or other places where food is served.
• Where could you take your pets if you had to go to a public shelter?
Contact your local emergency management agency to find out about emergency animal shelters in your community, in the event that you have nowhere else to go and need to go to public shelter with your animals.  Then, find out about the disaster plans at your workplace, your children's school or day care center, and other places where members of your family spend time. You should be prepared wherever you may be in case disaster strikes and learn steps you can take to prevent or avoid disasters.

 For People With Disabilities

• If you or anyone in your household has a disability or a mobility problem, make special plans.

Note: If a member of your household has a disability or a mobility problem, such as some elderly persons do, or if you are planning to assist someone else who does, you should review the following steps.
If you have a disability or a mobility problem, you should consider adding the following steps to the usual preparations:

• Create a network of relatives, friends, or co-workers to assist in an emergency. If you think you may need assistance in a disaster, discuss your disability with relatives, friends, or co-workers and ask for their help. For example, if you need help moving or help getting necessary prescriptions, food, or other essentials, or if you require special arrangements to receive emergency messages, make a plan with friends or helpers. Make sure they know where you keep your Disaster Supplies Kit. Give a key to a neighbor or friend who may be able to assist you in a disaster.
• Maintain a list of important items and store the list with your Disaster Supplies Kit.
Give a copy to another member of your household and a friend or neighbor. Important items might include:
-Special equipment and supplies, for example, hearing aid batteries.

-Current prescription names, sources, and dosages.

-Names, addresses, and telephone numbers of doctors and pharmacists. If you get prescriptions by mail, confirm where you will be able to get them locally in an emergency.
-Detailed information about the specifications of your medication or medical regimen, including a list of things incompatible with medication you use, for example, aspirin.
• Contact your local emergency management office now. Many local emergency management offices maintain registers of people with disabilities and their needs so they can be located and assisted quickly in a disaster.
• Wear medical alert tags or bracelets to identify your disability in case of an emergency. These may save your life if you are in need of medical attention and unable to communicate.
• Know the location and availability of more than one facility if you are dependent on a dialysis machine or other life-sustaining equipment or treatment. There may be other people requiring equipment, or facilities may have been affected by the disaster.
• If you have a severe speech, language, or hearing disability:
-When you dial 9-1-1 (or your local emergency number), tap the space bar to indicate a TDD call.
-Store a writing pad and pencils to communicate with others.
-Keep a flashlight handy to signal your whereabouts to other people and for illumination to aid in communication.
 -Remind friends that you cannot completely hear warnings or emergency instructions. Ask them to be your source of emergency information as it comes over the radio. Another option is to use a NOAA Weather Radio with an alert feature connected to a light. If a watch or warning is issued for your area, the light would alert you to potential danger.
-If you have a hearing ear dog, be aware that the dog may become confused or disoriented in an emergency. Store extra food, water, and supplies for your dog. Trained hearing ear dogs will be allowed to stay in emergency shelters with their owners. Check with local emergency management or American Red Cross officials for more information.

• If you have a service animal:
-Be aware that the animal may become confused or disoriented in an emergency. Disasters may often mask or confuse scent markers that are part of your service animal’s normal means of navigation.
-If you are blind or visually impaired, keep extra canes placed around your home and office, even if you use a guide dog.
-If you have a guide dog, train the dog to know one or two alternate routes out of your home or office. A guide dog familiar with the building may help you and others find a way out when no one else can see.
-Be sure your service animal has identification and your phone numbers attached to its collar, including emergency contact information through a national pet locator service.
-Have a complete pet disaster kit with food and water, medical records and identification, bowls, extra leash, a favorite toy, and a pet first aid kit. See “Disaster Supplies Kit.”
-Trained service animals will be allowed to stay in emergency shelters with their owners. Check with your local emergency management agency or American Red Cross officials for more information.

• If you use a wheelchair:
-Show friends how to operate your wheelchair or help you transfer out of your chair so they can move you quickly if necessary.
-If you use a power wheelchair, make sure friends know the size of your wheelchair, in case it has to be transported, and know where to get a battery if needed.
-Inquire about emergency equipment that would make it easier for others to help you get out if you live or work in a high-rise building and might have to evacuate via a stairwell. Make arrangements with others to be carried out, if necessary, and practice doing that.

• Listen to the advice of local officials. People with disabilities have the same choices as other community residents about whether to evacuate their homes and where to go when an emergency threatens. Decide whether it is better to leave the area, stay with a friend, or go to a public shelter. Each of these decisions requires planning and preparation.

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