Special to Atmore News
With the 2020 Hurricane Season predicted to be a very active one, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is urging families to prepare early as we face unprecedented challenges in the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic environment.
FEMA has published a new guide, “COVID-19 Pandemic Operational Guidance for the 2020 Hurricane Season” that describes anticipated challenges to disaster operations posed by COVID-19, describes planning considerations for emergency managers in light of these challenges and outlines how FEMA plans to adapt response and recovery operations to the realities and risks of COVID-19.
The guide allows emergency managers to prepare and plan accordingly based on FEMA’s operational posture and creates a shared understanding of expectations between FEMA and state, local, tribal and territorial governments prior to hurricane season.
For individuals and families, answering personal preparedness questions is more important than ever in the COVID-19 environment. What are the hurricane risks you face where you live? Is it flooding and storm surge or wind damage and possibly tornadoes?
Make a plan / communications plan
Put together a plan by discussing these 4 questions with your family, friends, or household:
- How will I receive emergency alerts and warnings before, during and after a disaster? How will you get information from local officials before the storm hits? Do you need to sign up for alerts to your mobile phone or follow local emergency managers on social media?
- What is my shelter plan? What are the requirements and limitations you will face if you go to a shelter? Will you have enough food, water, cash, medication, sanitizing supplies, PPE and other necessities to sustain you and your family for several days during evacuation? Will you be able to bring your pets?
- What is my evacuation route? Where will you go if you have to evacuate?
- What is my family / household communication plan if an unexpected disaster strikes such as a tornado or active shooter situation? How will you locate or contact family members?
- Check with the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and update your emergency plans due to Coronavirus.
One source of information is the FEMA app. No-notice events such as tornado touchdowns clearly show the need to be able to receive emergency weather alerts wherever you are.
Build a kit
- Water – one gallon of water per person per day for at least three days, for drinking and sanitation
- Food – at least a three-day supply of non-perishable food
- Insulin, prescription and over the counter medication and medical supplies to last at least 7 days
- PPE – face masks or cloth coverings, hand sanitizer and sanitizing wipes
- Battery-powered or hand crank radio and a NOAA Weather Radio with tone alert
- First aid kit
- Extra batteries
- Whistle to signal for help
- Dust mask to help filter contaminated air and plastic sheeting and duct tape to shelter-in-place
- Tissues, toilet tissue, wipes, moist towelettes, garbage bags and plastic ties for personal sanitation
- Manual can opener for food
- Local maps
- Cell phone with chargers and a backup battery
- Wrench or pliers to turn off utilities
Consider specific needs in your household. Tailor your plans and supplies to your specific daily living needs and responsibilities when it comes to communication, care of children, business, pets, or specific needs like the operation of durable medical equipment.
Disaster preparedness for people with disabilities
Additional considerations are needed when preparing a disaster plan for people with access or functional needs, disabilities or those who are deaf or hard of hearing.
- Create a support network. Identify those who can assist you, if needed. Keep a contact list in a watertight container in your emergency kit. Learn more at ready.gov/kit.
- Plan ahead for accessible transportation for evacuation or getting to a medical clinic. Work with local services, public transportation or paratransit to identify local or private accessible transportation options.
- Contact your city or county government’s emergency management agency or office. Many local offices keep lists of people with disabilities so they can be helped quickly in a sudden emergency or if evacuation is needed as a hurricane approaches.
- Inform a support network where your emergency supplies are; you may want to give one member a key to your house or apartment.
- Know the location and availability of more than one facility for dialysis if dialysis is part of a health maintenance plan or routine or other life-sustaining treatment.
- If you use medical equipment in your home that requires electricity, talk to your doctor or health care provider about how you can prepare for its use during a power outage.
- Wear medical alert tags or bracelets.
- Make note of the best way to communicate with you in an emergency if you have a communications disability.
- Plan how to evacuate with assistive devices or how to replace equipment if lost or destroyed. Keep model information and note where the equipment came from such as Medicaid, Medicare or private insurance.
Tips for people who are deaf or hard of hearing
- Include a weather radio with text display and a flashing alert
- Extra hearing-aid batteries
- A TTY
- Pen and paper in case you have to communicate with someone who does not know sign language
Tips for people who are blind or have low vision
- Mark emergency supplies with Braille labels or large print. Keep a list of your emergency supplies on a portable flash drive or make an audio file that is kept in a safe place where you can access it.
- Keep a Braille, or Deaf-Blind communications device in an emergency supply kit.
Tips for people with a mobility disability
- If you use a power wheelchair, have a lightweight manual chair available as a backup. Show others how to operate your wheelchair.
- Know the size and weight of your wheelchair, and if it is collapsible for transportation.
- Keep an extra mobility device such as a cane or walker if you use one.
- If you use a seat cushion to protect your skin or maintain your balance, and you must evacuate without your wheelchair, take your cushion with you.
Include your pets in your emergency plans
- Make an emergency plan and build a separate emergency kit, including food, water and medicines, for your pets
- Keep digital records and/or pictures to identify your pet after a disaster in case you become separated
- Create a list of veterinarians and places, such as hotels, that accept pets if an emergency occurs
- Find more on making a pet disaster plan at www.ready.gov/pets
Having access to personal financial, insurance, medical, and other records is crucial for starting the process of recovery following a disaster. Taking the time now to collect and secure these critical records will give you peace of mind and, in the event of an emergency, will ensure that you have the documentation needed to start the recovery process without delay
- Gather financial and critical personal, household, and medical information.
- Consider saving money in an emergency savings account that could be used in any crisis. Keep a small amount of cash at home in a safe place. It is important to have small bills on hand because ATMs and credit cards may not work during a disaster when you need to purchase necessary supplies, fuel or food.
- Obtain property (homeowners or renters), health, and life insurance if you do not have them. Review existing policies for the amount and extent of coverage to ensure that what you have in place is what may be needed for you and your family for all possible hazards.
- For more helpful financial preparedness tips, download the Emergency Financial First Aid Kit (EFFAK) to get started.