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Start the New Year Off Right By Building a Culture of Preparedness

By Jo Miller, MPH, RDN
Vice President of Nutrition at Meals for All, Inc.

In 2016, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) strengthened emergency preparedness expectations for healthcare. Over the past three years, many healthcare professionals have spent significant time and resources enhancing workplace readiness. But what about personal preparedness?  

It is critical to build a culture of preparedness at work and at home. A prepared community will be able to support healthcare when needed, and stay at home if essential disaster staffing has been met. FEMA reports that there have been 100 federally-declared disasters in the United States from January 1st to December 11th, 2019.  Of the 100 declared disasters, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) reports 10 weather related disasters exceeding $1 billion in damages. These instances range from floods, to server storms, to tropical cyclones.  The statistics may seem overwhelming, but you can be prepared at home in as little as 3 steps! The American Red Cross recommends you start a plan by discussing types of emergencies that are most likely to happen in your community, build a plan and disaster kit identifying responsibilities for each family member, and practice all elements of the plan.

In the healthcare setting, a hazard vulnerability analysis (HVA) is conducted to identify a healthcare community’s greatest hazards. It is equally important to conduct a similar analysis at home — but where do you start?  First, visit the local Office of Emergency Management (OEM) webpage. The local OEM will discuss hazards likely to affect a community, as well as response and recovery information specific to the region. Other great resources include FEMA’s Disaster Declarations page and their mobile app. Once you have downloaded the free app, select “Prepare and Know Your Risk.” The app will provide you with the most likely hazards by zip code. Now that the most likely types of emergencies are established (Step 1), it’s time build a plan and disaster kit for each family member.

The American Red Cross, U.S. Department of Homeland Security and FEMA are all excellent resources to help you build a comprehensive household plan. These organizations provide disaster preparedness templates to document household members, pets, tasks by household member, and action plans for evacuation and sheltering in place. After a plan is on paper, build a 72-hour disaster kit. The disaster kit — or “go bag” — should include:

  • High-calorie, shelf-stable, easy-to-prepare food, such as the food included in Meals for All’s Residential Kit
  • Shelf-stable, potable water, such as Blue Can Water
  • Essential medical supplies & medications
  • Any additional supplies to sustain each household member for 72 hours
  • Teach children not to hide from firefighters.

Visit the U.S. Department of Homeland Security for additional ideas, tips, and resources to round out the household plan including: communication templates and financial preparedness tips.  

Practice make perfect! Now that a plan and disaster kit are completed (Step 2), it is time to practice the plan. A full disaster drill or walk-through is recommended, but you should at least talk through the plan with all household members. If the most likely hazard in your region is wildfire, then practice a twice-yearly fire escape plan. Ready.gov recommends the fire escape plan to include:

  • Find two ways to get out of each room in the event the primary way is blocked by fire or smoke.
  • A secondary route might be a window onto a neighboring roof or a collapsible ladder for escape from upper story windows.
  • Make sure that windows are not stuck, screens can be taken out quickly, and that security bars can be properly opened.
  • Practice feeling your way out of the house in the dark or with your eyes closed.
  • Teach children not to hide from firefighters.

The list of preparedness options to give as gifts is endless! A Meals for All Residential Kit makes an excellent preparedness gift, and anywhere from Amazon to Target carry a plethora of non-food emergency items and ready-to-go essentials for every household.  Preparedness can even be found on Oprah’s List of Favorite Things 2019. This season we would like to wish everyone a happy season, and a more prepared tomorrow!

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