September is the month of national preparation, when local, state and federal officials work collectively to ensure that citizens are prepared for disasters that could have repercussions on their area. Appropriate since, as I write this, there are four tropical cyclones called active in the Atlantic and Pacific oceans.
As for anyone else, it is important for the blind to ensure that we are ready to ensure the safety of ourselves, our families and, for those who are inclined to seek such volunteer opportunities, our neighbors.
Preparation does not have to be difficult, or even cost a lot of money all at once.
I would like to share with you some of the things I learned from my training hours on the basic disaster response, the suppression of basic fire, how to safely release a victim trapped by a collapsed structure and how to perform triage and the first aid bases.
Some of the first steps you want to take are simply about information and making a plan.
Things you should consider include:
- What types of disasters could occur in my community? For example, Texas is much more likely to see the effects of tropical climate than, for example, Minnesota.
- How will I receive emergency alerts and will we be informed about upcoming disasters? While FCC regulations have been amended to require voice synthesis for emergency scanning on television, as with any information on the secondary audio channel, the ability to quickly and easily access this audio depends on several factors. Consider how you will independently receive the initial notification of an emergency, such as the meteorological radio of the national meteorological service, and how you will access this information in a form that you can read, in case you have to analyze the details, such as Acuweather of NFB Newsline® integration or the local government website. Social media is also heavily used by emergency management entities and is a good place to find textual information that will be useful to those who are deaf or hard of hearing. Your local government can also offer alerts via SMS or "reverse 9-1-1" where you will receive a phone call with critical information.
- How can I communicate with others during a disaster? Local and wireless telephone circuits are often overburdened by calls. However, if the wireless service is still working, since these are relatively small packets of information, text messages will often have more chances to go through the busy speech circuits. Similarly, it is often easier to connect a call to an out-of-area contact than to a local telephone. As part of your planning, your family should designate an out-of-state contact with which everyone will check-in. This person can pass information back and forth to the place and status of other family members. Even if you live alone, someone outside the state will want to know that you are safe. I would also be negligent if I did not insert a plug for amateur radio which, after passing a relatively simple test and buying some equipment, can allow you to stay in touch with others regardless of the telephone service. Think about getting your licenses as a fun family activity.
- How will I evacuate if necessary? Many blind people do not have access to their vehicles. Find out what your community options are for accessible transportation, make a plan with friends or family, or identify other ways to leave the area or secure it in a shelter in case evacuation is required .
As you answer these questions and build your emergency plan, you must also consider putting together a disaster supply kit. This kit should include supplies for you and your family to support you without assistance for three days. You will need food (which can be prepared without electricity or gas), water, medicines and other items to meet any medical need, first aid supplies, some basic tools, cash (a couple of hundred dollars is recommended) and comfort articles for children or pets. Be sure to also include supplies for your guide dog.
A fantastic and convenient way to put together a disaster kit is using a checklist such as the weekly emergency preparedness steps provided by the Knox County Department of Health. This spreads the things you need to buy and learn in twenty-four weeks.
By taking a few small steps now, you can make sure you are ready for the disasters you may encounter in your community in the future. For more information, visit the US National Security Department's preparation page at the ready.gov address or contact your local emergency management office.