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Safety Tips for Vulnerable Populations During Emergency Preparedness Month

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Fire Chief and Emergency Management Director John Sullivan would like to offer residents tips about ensuring the safety of vulnerable populations ahead of an emergency, as part of Emergency Preparedness Month.

September has been declared by Gov. Charlie Baker to be Emergency Preparedness Month. Residents are encouraged to use resources provided by the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency (MEMA) to prepare themselves, their family, their property and their community for an emergency or natural disaster.

Vulnerable populations include children, seniors, pets and those living with disabilities or who may be immunocompromised. During an emergency or natural disaster, it is imperative that any emergency plan or response takes into account the specific needs of these groups.

In order to ensure preparedness and safety for all, the Town of Brookline encourages residents to follow tips provided by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).

Seniors

The following is information for older Americans preparing ahead of an emergency:

  • Any senior taking medicine or using medical treatment on a daily basis should have enough to last at least one week during an emergency. They should also keep a copy of their prescription as well as dosage or treatment information.
  • Be sure to always have extra eyeglasses, hearing aids and hearing aid batteries, wheelchair batteries and oxygen in your home if you use them.
  • Include copies of important documents in your emergency supply kits, such as family records, wills, power of attorney documents, deeds, Social Security numbers, credit card and bank information and tax records.
  • If there are people who assist you on a daily basis, list who they are and how you will contact them in an emergency.
  • Inform your family, friends, neighbors and care providers of your emergency plan. Keep continuous contact with them whenever possible throughout an emergency.
  • Some local emergency management offices maintain registers of older people so they can be located and assisted quickly in a disaster. Contact your local emergency management agency to see if these services exist where you live.

Individuals with Disabilities

If you or someone you know is living with a disability, here are a few extra tips to keep in mind ahead of an emergency:

  • People living with disabilities should wear medical alert tags or bracelets to inform first responders of their disabilities. If you are dependent on dialysis or other life-sustaining treatment, know the location and availability of more than one facility.
  • Plan ahead for accessible transportation during an evacuation. Contact your local government’s emergency management agency so they can take note of your disabilities and assist you quickly during a sudden emergency.
  • If you use medical equipment in your home that requires electricity, talk to your doctor or health care provider about how you can prepare in case of a power outage.
  • Those who are hard of hearing or deaf should have a weather radio with text displays and a flashing alert. They should also have extra hearing-aid batteries and a pen and paper in case they need to communicate with someone who does not know sign language.
  • People who are blind or have low vision should ensure their emergency supplies include Braille labels or large print.
  • People with speech disabilities should keep their augmentative communications device or other assistive technologies on them. They should also prepare to communicate with laminated cards with phrases and/or pictogram if their equipment isn’t working.
  • Those with mobility disabilities should have a lightweight manual chair, cane or walker available to them during an emergency.
    • If you use a power wheelchair, show others how to operate it, have extra batteries readily available, keep a portable air pump for the tires and have an extra cushion with you if you use one to protect your skin or maintain balance.
  • Anyone with sensory disabilities (including autism spectrum disorder) should have handheld electronics available with spare charges and a small pop-up tent to decrease visual stimulation in a busy room.
    • Headphones should also be available to decrease auditory distractions for those living with sensory disabilities.

Children

Every member of your family should be prepared ahead of an emergency. Here are a few tips to prepare kids and assist them throughout an emergency:

  • Include your young children and teens in the planning process. Have them assist in building a kit, creating a plan and practicing a mock evacuation.
  • Help kids understand that they are safe and secure by talking, playing and doing other family activities during an emergency.
  • Teens who want to get involved can join or start a youth pr eparedness program such as the Youth Preparedness Council.
  • Teach kids about emergencies with fun games that get them involved in the discussion.

Pets

Emergency plans should always take into account your pets or live animals:

  • Try not to leave your pets behind as they may get lost, injured or worse. Additionally, pets should never be chained outdoors during an emergency.
  • Prior to an emergency, identify shelters along your evacuation route or consider an out-of-town friend or relative to host your pet. Locate a veterinarian or animal hospital in the area where you may be seeking temporary shelter in case your pet needs medical care.
  • Ensure all animals have some form of identification and up-to-date medical records.
  • Build an emergency kit for your pet that includes a three day supply of food and water, any medicine your pet may need and their collar and ID tags.
  • If you have large animals such as horses, cattle, sheep, goats or pigs on your property, evacuate the animals whenever possible. If evacuation isn’t possible, decide whether to move large animals to shelter or turn them outside.

For additional information regarding vulnerable populations and how they can prepare ahead of an emergency, please visit ready.gov.