Disasters can alter a family’s normal routine with little warning. Neighborhood streets can be closed because of large debris or downed power lines. Suddenly, an area that is a familiar part of a normal daily routine is now unrecognizable. In times like this, it is crucial for a family to have a plan to reunite and meet at a safe location.
With severe storm season around the corner, the Oklahoma State Department of Health (OSDH) encourages families to create a plan for both adults and children to follow. A family may not be together when a disaster strikes so it is important to plan in advance: know how to get to a safe place; how to contact one another; how to get back together; and what to do in different situations. During a disaster, roads are often blocked or closed, and alternate routes must be used. Knowing multiple routes of travel in advance can save time and frustration when trying to reach loved ones.
OSDH also encourages families to have a basic, 72-hour emergency kit consisting of water, snacks, first-aid kit, flashlight, batteries, prescription medicine and important paperwork.Parents can help reduce the effect of disasters on children by adding a few simple kid-friendly supplies such as books, games, a favorite toy or comfort item and medical items such as infant/child fever reducer to the kit. Those with babies should consider a three-day supply of formula, diapers, antibacterial wipes, non-perishable baby food and sealable plastic bags for soiled items.
Scott Sproat, director of the Emergency Preparedness and Response Service at OSDH, reminds families who have members with medical conditions and disabilities to consider any unique needs during and after a disaster.
“If you have, or care for someone, with a disability or access and functional needs, it’s especially important to include needed supplies, equipment and medications as part of your planning efforts,” said Sproat. “If evacuating from the home is necessary, it is important to take medication and specialty equipment such as hearing aids, oxygen, a wheelchair, diabetic supplies, food for a special diet or supplies for a service animal.”
During a disaster response, the OSDH works with a number of other partnering agencies which support essential functions such as patient care and movement, food safety, health surveillance and mass fatality management.
“Public health preparedness is an important function in disaster response and recovery,” said Interim Commissioner of Health Tom Bates. “The OSDH is proud to partner with emergency management officials as we work to mitigate the effects of a disaster which may threaten the health and safety of Oklahomans. Our role is to ensure a smooth transition to recovery while a community rebuilds their capability to provide needed services.”
OSDH and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) offer the additional following tips for families preparing for disasters:
Check with your mobile carrier for options on wireless emergency alerts being delivered to your cell phone or other device.
Practice your plan by quizzing your children periodically, and conduct fire and other emergency drills.
Check emergency supplies throughout the year to replace batteries, food and water as needed.
Plan alternate ways to charge communication and assistive technology devices if there is loss of power.
Plan for medication requiring refrigeration.
Severe storms are often followed by flash flooding. If an evacuation of a neighborhood is ordered, it is important to leave immediately. If possible, make arrangements to stay with a nearby friend or relative as hotels will be filled quickly. A disaster shelter may be used as a last resource. Remember that not all shelters allow pets, and plan to bring your own emergency supply kit.
OSDH released videos in English, Spanish and American Sign Language to ensure the message of preparedness is available to various populations. To access these videos, visit the OSDH YouTube channel and select the Preparedness playlist.
Families may begin preparing for disasters by downloading, printing and completing a family plan by visiting www.ready.gov.