Emergency Preparedness

My husband had open-heart surgery downtown, at Swedish Hospital in 2001. He was wide open when the Nisqually Earthquake hit Seattle in 2001. We had just gotten the call from the operating room that they had put him on the heart/lung machine and all was going well. As a family we took a big breath, laid back, and relaxed in the family lounge. Ten minutes later, Swedish Hospital was rocking and rolling, lights were flickering, and we stood there immobilized and wondering, what do we do? Our youngest son had chosen to go to school that day, and then to come to the hospital. So, our first thought was to call him. When we tried to call his middle school to reassure him, we looked out the window and saw 300-400 people standing outside of the hospital, all with their cell phones up to their ears. We couldn’t get through. If we had been prepared, we would have arranged an out of state number for us to call and for him to call to leave messages to communicate status.

Are you really ready for an emergency?

Many times we think of an emergency in the most common way. For example, during the winter months we think of power outages. Yet, there are other threats from earthquakes, to terrorist and chemical threats. In some cases, evacuation is required, and in other cases lock down is the remedy. So it is valuable to think through each situation and develop a strategy to manage each of the unique challenges you may face.

People tend to over-estimate their ability to handle a situation. They forget they don’t have control over where, when, and how each emergency will happen. For example, they may not have time to gather their meds before they get out the door in a fire. They may also forget that cash machines may not work, or that phone circuits could become jammed.

The best way to begin preparing is with a personal kit. Assemble a kit that has some of the basic things: a pair of shoes, a space blanket, a weeks supply of medications, a flashlight, a radio with batteries, a spare set of glasses, a whistle, some cash, protein bars, a water bottle, and an extra set of keys to the car and house. Include a copy of medical cards, a list of medications, a list of emergency phone numbers including: family, physicians, and emergency shelters and services.

One of the best devices invented for emergencies is the cell phone. With one, you are never alone. You can take it on a walk, into the backyard, on a drive to the store, and if you get into trouble you can call for help. Like cell phones, Emergency Call Systems can signal others that they need help. Lifelines can give some the added confidence they need to stay involved, moving, and going.