Severe Weather

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In the spring, I always check my flashlight, weather radio and transistor radio and make sure they’re in my “go-to” spot. I put some fresh bottles of water and a handful of new batteries in the backpack I keep in the closet. It has a change of clothes and a few other emergency supplies in it. I live in St. Louis — a severe weather zone. And though I pray a big twister won’t come to my neighborhood, I want to be prepared. I have a plan for emergencies, and I’ve practiced it.

I work with people with disabilities who hire a personal care attendant to assist them with tasks of daily living. Some of these people depend on a personal care attendant to help them get out of bed every day. For them, not having an attendant on any given day can be considered an emergency, too.

At Paraquad, we guide people with disabilities in the creation of an emergency plan. We help them plan for bad weather and for times when their attendant can’t make it to work. Here are some areas we focus on.

Disaster and Emergency Preparedness. No matter where you live, a natural or man-made disaster could happen. Think about your situation, your family and your needs, and get prepared.

  • Make a plan. It’s really not hard to do; it just takes a little time. Look up your own resources or start with these:
    • Ready in 3 (Focuses on three steps — create a plan, prepare a kit, listen for information — you can take to prepare for many kinds of emergencies).
    • Ready.gov (Information on creating plans and building an emergency kit).
    • Do 1 Thing (Receive an emergency preparedness email each month).
  • Sign up for alerts. Don’t be taken by surprise. In times of emergency or disaster, those who have advanced notice can better protect themselves. Besides television and radio, you can receive local emergency texts from alert systems like Nixle. Alerts from systems such as Code Red will call your landline or cell phone to notify you of impending storms minutes away from your address. I received a Code Red storm call in the middle of the night and was able to shelter in my safe room.

Emergency Backup Attendant. At Paraquad, we encourage all of those who hire a personal care attendant to have an emergency backup attendant. If you hire a personal care attendant, your emergency backup attendant could be a paid attendant who works on an as-needed schedule, or they could be a neighbor, friend or family member who is willing to lend a hand. Your emergency backup attendant should be someone you know and can trust to come through on very short notice when your regular attendant cannot work. You should provide your emergency backup attendant with some training before you need them so they know how to perform the required tasks properly when the time comes.

Easily Accessible Emergency Information. Keeping an updated written list of emergency information is a great resource to carry with you. For people who employ a personal care attendant, it helps to keep a copy of the information in your home so it is accessible to the attendant in an emergency. Even if you are a perfectly healthy person with a disability, an emergency could occur. Take a few minutes to write an emergency information list for your attendant and show them where it is. Include the following:

  • Primary doctor name and numbers;
  • Specialists names and numbers;
  • Any medications and doses (include where you keep the medication if you’re comfortable doing so);
  • Preferred hospital;
  • Important people to contact in an emergency (family, friends, etc.).

Like wills and life insurance, people might choose to ignore making an emergency plan because it’s an uncomfortable subject. Nobody wants to think of an emergency actually happening, but emergencies happen to someone every day. Being prepared is the responsible thing to do for you and your family. If the lights go out, you’ll know where the flashlight is and it will work!

Jen Haycraft is the Director of Attendant Services at Paraquad. She can be reached at jhaycraft@paraquad.org.

Photo credit: Chuck Zacharias

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