Disasters don’t wait — make plans today!

National Preparedness Month

Disasters don’t wait — make plans today!By STEPHANIE MEEKS,

Emergency Management-Regulatory Compliance, Ridgecrest Regional Hospital

As our nation continues to respond to COVID-19, there’s no better time to be involved in the observance of National Preparedness Month. The 2020 theme is “Disasters Don’t Wait. Make Your Plan Today.” This is a good reminder, as the Ridgecrest earthquakes from summer 2019 forced the city and surrounding communities to rethink a disaster strategy. The COVID-19 pandemic has further shifted the way we all live and address unexpected emergencies.

We want to make sure we remember some of the lessons we learned with our families, our homes, our businesses when it came to those earthquakes. We know we’re not done with those. We may not have big ones, but we’re still going to have some events where we have to think about things like power outages. Another thing we learned this year had to do with supply chain disruptions.

Make a plan and practice it

At the core of emergency preparedness is a fairly simple strategy: practice, practice, practice. Families should have a plan in place for when emergencies occur—and practice that plan in non-emergent times. This builds that critical “muscle memory” to help individuals respond quickly and efficiently when disaster strikes. Any plan on paper can look good, but it’s important to put it in motion.

Instead of going into a stressed-out mode, you know what you’re going to do. You’ve safeguarded your home. You’re going to feel a lot less stress, and less scared, when those things actually hit. Using the information you’re learning is the best technique. Get out there, get educated, and actually do it.

Helpful resources include www.Ready.gov, which has downloadable family communication plans and preparedness kit checklists, including checklists for those who have disabled family members and even pets. The American Red Cross also has multiple checklists and access to local kits. Smart 9-1-1 allows individuals to input family information, such as number of people in the household, any medications they might be on, or if they have certain medical conditions.

That way, when you do call 9-1-1, that actually pops up. First responders can get a head start on what they might be dealing with or what might be in your household.

Community Involvement

The community emergency response team is also a great local resource for anyone looking to create a personal emergency response plan. Opportunities exist for community members to participate in drills, meetings, and training sessions. For example, when the hospital performs drills, community volunteers can be on-site as well.

Not everybody has to look at it as being a responder. Community emergency response teams are about making sure you’re prepared, your family is prepared and ready, and your neighborhood is. That way, you’re not taxing the emergency preparedness and the emergency response community. When things do go down, you can take care of your family. You can help your neighborhood.

The Indian Wells Valley Emergency Services Committee meets every month, except for during these pandemic times. Representatives from the school district, water district, search and rescue, local churches, and radio stations all come together to ensure communication is possible during an emergency. This meeting is also open to the community.

Disaster Management for a Spectrum of Scenarios

The hospital performs regular vulnerability assessments to analyze risks—whether the emergency is more of a natural disaster (e.g. earthquake) or an infectious disease like COVID-19. The latter is often a much longer disaster management process; one that could take months, or even a year, to work its way through. The fortunate scenario for Ridgecrest, specifically, was the amount of time the community had to prepare.

With an emerging infectious disease, such as COVID-19, you have a little bit more time for preparedness because you can see it coming. Especially because we’re geographically isolated out here. I know we have a lot of travelers, but for the most part, we can see when something is headed our way. And, we can have some time to prepare for a surge of patients.

To learn more about emergency preparedness and disaster management within Ridgecrest Regional Hospital and the community as a whole—and to listen to an in-depth podcast episode, visit RRH.org/podcasts.

Story First Published: 2020-10-02