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Emergency Preparedness

Emergency Preparedness

The Oxford Dictionary defines emergency as ďa serious, unexpected, and often dangerous situation requiring immediate actionĒóbut given the variety of situations where emergencies can happen, they are sometimes hard to recognize. This recognition could save a life, as minutes can make the difference. Being prepared for an emergency will mean different things based on the type of emergency, but many times, preparing can lead to prevention

Types of Emergencies

Emergencies can happen anywhere, but when we look at being prepared for them, there are three main categories: natural disasters, medical emergencies, and societal emergencies. Each category has specific emergencies and each one will have different ways to prepare, prevent, or address it.

Natural disasters are emergencies relating to the environment and natural world. Tornados, wildfires, extreme heat, and earthquakes are just a few examples of natural disasters. Preparing for these types of disasters includes addressing physical needs, communications, and planning.

Medical emergencies occur when our health is in danger. This could be something like a heart attack or stroke to a car or home accident to a pandemic. Knowing what a medical emergency looks like and what to do next will make the difference for the person experiencing the emergency.

Perhaps the rarest of emergencies, societal emergencies are things which affect our community as a whole, our government, or any collective group. Examples include a terrorist attack, a train derailment, or an active shooter situation, although there are certainly more than just these three. The focus of preparing and handling these include taking measures to keep you and your family safe.

Preparing for an Emergency

The first step in preparing for an emergency is to be able to recognize when a situation is an emergency.

Natural Disasters

Natural disasters can happen without warning, or they can happen with days of information about the coming situation. Preparing for a natural disaster can take a bit of time, but if it happens, the prep time will be worth it. Here are five steps to help you be ready should a natural disaster occur.

A go bag is a packed bag (or box) which contains enough items to last you for three days. This includes clothes, toiletries, a first aid kit, non-perishable food, medicines, and other items you would need if you had to evacuate your home with only a minuteís notice. FEMA has a comprehensive emergency packing list on their Ready.gov website to help give you ideas. Remember to conduct a monthly check of your bag to ensure there are no expired items, items still fit, and everything is seasonally appropriate. Your family go bag should be stored in a place where everyone can access it. In the go bag be sure to have a battery-operated radio, this may be the only way for you to continue to get updates on the specific emergency if power goes out.

Preparing your home includes things like making sure you have a fire extinguisher, taking inventory of all of your belongings, ensuring heavy furniture is bolstered to the wall, and other steps to keep your belongings safe. Most importantly, make sure everyone knows where the water line, gas line, and power breakers are, as well as how to turn them off if needed. HUD Exchange has an article about the steps homeowners (and renters) can take to prepare for a natural disaster, along with some checklists to make sure you consider all of your options.

In addition to having the needed supplies, your family should have an emergency plan. This includes know where to meet, who to call if you are separated, what steps to take if they have to evacuate, and other considerations. Ready.gov has a website which will create a family emergency plan for you to complete and then print. Simply answer the questions and a clean document will be emailed to you. Keeping a hard copy and an electronic one will ensure the information isnít lost. Much like your go bag, make sure to review the information at least twice per year to ensure itís up-to-date.

Although this may seem like it is only necessary for a medical emergency, being able to administer CPR and first aid is a foundation for preparing for any emergency. Even if no one in your family needs it, these skills could help save a neighbor or friend. Students in Davenport are taught these skills in high school, but you can take classes either online or at a community offering.† CPR certification needs to be renewed every two years, so make sure your renewal information is part of your family emergency plan.

You may feel silly, but practicing your plan will help you remember everything if you ever need it. When an emergency happens, we tend to focus on whatever is right in front of us at the time. Practicing the appropriate response will help by making the response routine. You wonít have to think about it, youíll just know what to do.† Itís recommended you practice with your household two to three times per year.

These arenít the only steps you can take to prepare you and your family for a natural disaster, but they are some easy steps to help you be ready should an emergency happen.

Medical Emergencies

Medical emergencies can happen any time, any place, to anyone. Sometimes they are obviousósomeone falls and breaks a leg, or a kitchen accident happens, and you need stitches. But sometimes they are notóa stroke, a heart attack, or overdose.† The American College of Emergency Physicians has prepared a short booklet with the signs and symptoms of a medical emergency you can download.

Preparing for a medical emergency may seem impossible, but there are a few things you can do to help prepare you to help someone in a medical emergency situation.

Signs can vary based on age and physical health, but here are the top 10 signs to look for:

  1. Uncontrolled bleeding.
  2. Inability to breathe.
  3. Sudden physical changes.
  4. Chest pain which lasts longer than two minutes.
  5. Losing consciousness.
  6. Sudden change in mental status (confusion, behaviors, etc.).
  7. Feelings of self-harm or harming others.
  8. Blue or gray skin color*.
  9. Being unresponsive to outside prompts.
  10. An injury to the head or spine.

*skin tone may affect how this appears. Medline Plus has a guide for identifying these symptoms on someone with darker skin

If you observe one of these symptoms, treat it as a medical emergency.

Medical emergencies may need a different response, depending on what is happening, but some guidelines that generally apply are below.

1. Assess the situation

The first step is to determine what is happening and what may have caused it. Is the person bleeding or unconscious? Is there a clear cause, like an accident? Are they still breathing? This should happen quickly, as time is of the utmost importance, but when you reach out for help, having a sense of what is going on can help them respond appropriately.

2. Call 911.

If you can call 911, do it while you are assessing the situation as the people who answer your call can help guide you on what to do. If you are unable to call 911, try to find someone in the immediate area that can. Lincoln County is fortunate to have dedicated community volunteers at the ready to respond to medical emergencies. If you† or someone you know is interested† in being a volunteer EMT or Non-Medically trained driver, please contact our Emergency Preparedness Coordinator.

3. Provide aid until emergency medical services arrive.

What aid will look like will depend on the situation. As we said above, once you call 911, the Lincoln County Sheriff Office is trained to give direction over the phone and may be able to guide you in helping the person. Generally speaking, if someone is choking, working to remove the obstacle is the first step. If someone isnít breathing, administering CPR and/or using the AED can help. If someone is bleeding, find a way to stop or slow the blood loss. If you suspect a spine injury, do NOT move the person, as moving them could make it worse. If someone has overdosed on opioids, administer naloxone. VeryWellHealth.com provides some tips for 10 different medical emergencies on their website and the Red Cross provides an Until Help Arrives course, which teaches you the basics of what to do in a medical emergency while you wait for EMS.

Preparing for a medical emergency may seem impossible, but there are a few things you can do to help prepare you to help someone in a medical emergency situation.

1. Learn CPR and first aid.

CPR can save a life, but administering CPR properly is critical for it to work. Many high school students will receive CPR and first aid training at school. There are also online and community courses you can take to become certified. The Red Cross provides an Until Help Arrives course, which teaches you the basics of what to do in a medical emergency, including CPR. Remember that your CPR certification is only good for two years, so make sure to keep up with your renewing your CPR card.

2. Keep a first aid kit.

A first aid kit will have supplies for a variety of situations. The Red Cross has a first aid kit list so you can build your own, or you can buy varying levels of first aid kits at almost every store. Make sure your kit contains gloves in your size as you should wear gloves for any situation involving bodily fluids for your safety and reducing contamination to their wounds.

3. Practice. Practice. Practice.

Just like a natural disaster, you should practice your response to a medical emergency. This means practicing CPR, abdominal thrusts for choking, getting the first aid kit, locating and administering the AED system, and collecting the information needed for 911. For some of these, you will need to have a pillow or doll available or use the practice kit in the case of the AED. But gathering information and the first aid kit should be easy to practice.

In an era of smart technology, we all have In Case of Emergency, or ICE, on our smart phones. ICE information is the information someone would need if you were involved in a medical emergency and could not tell the responder your information. For Apple users, ICE information is in the medical alert portion of the health app. For Android users, ICE is located under settings as the medical alert. Completing this information allows an EMT to access it during an emergency without having to unlock your phone. You can also tag contacts as ICE in your contacts on all cellphones as well.

As easy as this is, there are times your phone may not be available. It is always a good idea to have written ICE information in your glove box, in a safe place in your workspace, and in your home. Most EMTs are trained to look at your fridge to try and find your ICE information, so make sure to have it posted on or near your fridge.

ICE information should include at least the following health information:

ICE Information

  • Full name
  • Address
  • Phone number
  • Date of birth
  • Physical information (height, weight, blood type)
  • At least two emergency contact names, phone numbers, and relationships
  • Any allergies
  • All medications (including over the counter supplements and vitamins)
  • The name and contact information of your doctor
  • Any end-of-life decisions (i.e. do not resuscitate), including a picture of a POLST form if available

Each person in your household should have health ICE information easily available in case an EMT needs to provide help.

In addition to health information, it is always a good idea to have the following information available as well to provide comprehensive emergency information.

Emergency Information

  • Any pet information (do you have them, type, names, etc)
  • Veterinarian information
  • Landlord contact information
  • Location of emergency shut-offs
  • Emergency response direct phone numbers (police, fire, etc)
  • Poisoning controlís number (800-222-1222)

This information provides a complete look at what responders need to consider, but it also provides a handy reference for everyone in your home.

Societal Emergencies

Preparing for a societal emergency is a combination of prep for natural and medical emergencies. The biggest preventative step you can take is to have a clear communication plan. Who would you call to check-in with or where would you post your status? Where would you meet your family if you werenít all together? Finding your loved ones as well as letting them know your status is the best way to prepare.

Emergency Resources

Part of being prepared is knowing what resources can help you in an emergency. The Lincoln County Health Department has staff available to help you prepare for and answer questions about emergency preparedness.† You can also look into our resources page for additional information.† You can also find more information on our partner websites below:

An emergency can strike at any time. Being prepared will help you know you can handle a situation until professional help arrives. We encourage you to become CPR and first aid trained to ensure you can provide support for anyone who may need it. To find out more about certification, contact our Emergency Preparedness Coordinator.