Following last Octobers Wildfires that raged through Sonoma County, PG&E is implementing additional precautionary measures to help reduce the risk of wildfires. For public safety, it may be necessary for them to turn off electricity to communities in high fire-threat areas when and where extreme fire danger conditions exist. The utility company’s Community Wildfire Safety Program will temporarily turn off power in the interest of public safety only as last resort. They will notify customers in advance of doing so. You can also get alerts through Nixle on your cellphone.
Late last Sunday PG&E shut off power to parts of 12 counties including Sonoma, (Cloverdale, Geyserville, Healdsburg, Santa Rosa) Napa & Lake counties to lessen the wild fire danger. Effected have been 17,000 customers in the North Bay by PG&E’s Public Safety Power Shutoff. “We continue to monitor the weather and will provide updates to our impacted customers in Napa, Lake, Sonoma, Amador, El Dorado and Calaveras counties,” PG&E tweeted Monday morning. High wind warnings coupled with vegetation that is parched has caused the Bay Area to be effected by these power outages. How has this affected your aging loved one or yourself?
With emergencies and disasters striking quickly, having a plan is critical to a best outcome especially for the aging community. What to do when your basic services—water, gas, electricity or communications— are cut off? Learning how to protect yourself by planning ahead is the best route to take. Even if you have physical limitations, you can still protect and prepare yourself. Local officials and relief workers may not be able to reach everyone right away. You can deal with disaster better by preparing in advance and by working with those in your support network: your family, neighbors and friends and, yes, even your home care team. Knowing what to do is your responsibility.
The Three Steps to Preparedness.
Get a kit. Make a plan. Be informed! Disasters can happen at any moment. By planning ahead, you can avoid waiting in long lines for critical supplies, such as food, water and medicine and you will also have essential items if you need to evacuate.
• For your safety and comfort, have a disaster supplies kit packed and ready in one place before a disaster hits.
• Assemble enough supplies to last for at least three days.
• Store your supplies in one or more easy-to-carry containers, such as a backpack or duffel bag.
• You may want to consider storing supplies in a container that has wheels.
• Be sure your bag has an ID tag.
• Label any equipment, such as wheelchairs, canes or walkers, that you would need with your name, address and phone numbers.
• Keeping your kit up-to-date is also important. Review the contents at least every six months or as your needs change.
Check expiration dates and shift your stored supplies into everyday use before they expire. Replace food, water and batteries, and refresh medications and other perishable items with “first in, first out” practices. On the following pages are some suggestions for building your disaster supplies kit. Include any additional items that you feel may be necessary for your particular needs.
Basic Needs and Supplies
Water — one gallon per person, per day (3-day supply for evacuation and 2-week supply for home)
Food — it is a good idea to include foods that do not need cooking (canned, dried, etc.) (3-day supply for evacuation and 2-week supply for home)
Flashlight with extra batteries and bulbs (do not use candles)
Battery-operated or hand-crank radio
First aid kit and manual
Medications (7-day supply) and medical items
Multi-purpose tool (several tools that fold up into a pocket-sized unit)
Sanitation and personal hygiene items (toilet paper, Depends, personal care items, plastic garbage bags)
Copies of personal documents (medication list and pertinent medical information, deed/lease to home, birth certificates, insurance policies)
There is an effective APP for all smart phones called CARING created by local Sonoma County GCM Kira Reginato that can house all your health & care information in the cloud. No more need to worry about housing all those docs! It houses your doctors, lists of current medications, medical records & history as well as emergency contacts all in the cloud.
Cell phone with an extra battery and charger (s)
Family and friends’ emergency contact information
Cash and coins (ATMs may not be accessible)
Map(s) of the local area
Whistle (to attract the attention of emergency personnel)
Change of clothing
Manual can opener
Pet supplies (including food and vaccination records)
Extra set of keys (car, house, etc.)
Pack of cards to provide entertainment and pass the time
Supplies for your vehicle
First aid kit
MAP (if you have a smart phone, know how to operate google maps or Waze app)
Flashlight with extra batteries (if you have a smart phone- know how to operate the flashlight feature)
Tire repair kit
Non-perishable foods such as granola bars
Winter: Blanket, hat, mittens, shovel, sand, tire chains, windshield scraper, florescent distress flag
Summer: Sunscreen lotion SPF 15 or higher, shade item (umbrella, wide-brimmed hat, etc.)
Make a plan.
Planning ahead reduces anxiety. The next time a disaster strikes, you may not have much time to act. Prepare now for a sudden emergency and remember to review your plan regularly.
• Meet with your family and friends
Explain your concerns to your family and others in your support network and work with them as a team to prepare.
• Arrange for someone to check on you at the time of a disaster. Be sure to include any caregivers in your meeting and planning efforts.
• Assess yourself and your household. What personal abilities and limitations may affect your response to a disaster? Think about how you can resolve these or other questions and discuss them with your family and friends. Details are important to ensure your plan fits your needs. Then, practice the planned actions to make sure everything “works.”
Family Communications Plan
• Carry family contact information in your wallet.
• Choose an out-of-town contact person. After a disaster, it is often easier to make a long-distance call than a local call from disaster area.
Do you know your Community Disaster Plans?
Ask about the emergency plans and procedures that exist in your community. Whether you live in an independent home, an apartment bldg. or aging community. Know about your community’s response and evacuation plans (ie: fire, earthquake etc.). If you do not own a vehicle or drive, find out in advance what your community’s plans are for evacuating those without private transportation or make arrangements with a neighbor who would drive you. If you receive home care, speak with your care manager to see what their plan is in times of emergency and how they can assist with your plan.
Plan the best and quickest escape routes out of your home and evacuation routes out of your neighborhood.
Decide on a meeting place outside your neighborhood in case you cannot return home.
If you or someone in your household uses a wheelchair, make sure all escape routes from your home are wheelchair accessible.
Know the safe places within your home in case you need to shelter in place or evacuate. Craft a list of where you can safely go if you need to evacuate in Sonoma County and outside of our county limits if need be.
Practice your escape drill every six months.
Plan for transportation if you need to evacuate to a shelter.
Remember some emergency
phone lines may not be working. Consider other ways to communicate with your network. Social media such as Facebook and Twitter offers these types of announcements to declare yourself safe during such disasters.
Plan for Those with Disabilities. Keep support items like wheelchairs and walkers in a designated place so they can be found quickly. This step is essential for those who have home care/ health caregivers, particularly for those who are bed bound. Plan for Your Pets or Service Animals. Take your pets with you if you evacuate. However, be aware that pets (except service animals) are not permitted in emergency public shelters for health reasons. Prepare a list of family, friends, boarding facilities, veterinarians and ‘pet-friendly’ hotels that could shelter your pets in an emergency.
Daylight saving time is an excellent reminder to check your smoke detector and carbon monoxide alarms. Consider strobe or vibrating alert systems that might meet your needs. Change the batteries in all alarms at least once a year or according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
Hearing Aids/Cochlear Implants. If you wear hearing aids or assistive devices, consider storing them in a bedside container that is attached to your nightstand using Velcro. Some disasters (ie: earthquakes) may shift items that are not secured, making them difficult to find quickly.
Be informed Community Hazard Assessment
What hazards threaten your community and neighborhood? Make a list of how they might affect you. Think about both natural (ie: wild fire, flooding, winter storms and earthquakes) and human-caused (i.e.: hazardous materials and transportation accidents) and about your risk from those hazards. Which of these hazards are most likely to happen in your community? Preparing for a hazard that is most likely to happen in your area will help you be prepared for any disaster. Remember, disasters can happen at any time.
Things to consider:
• Do you live alone?
• Do you drive or own a car?
• How good is your sense of smell?
• Do you have any physical, medical, thinking or learning limitations?
• Has your sense of hearing or vision decreased?
• Are you reliant upon any medical equipment?
• Are you reliant upon a caregiver?
Remember local Emergency Officials in some emergencies, local responders may come door-to-door and deliver emergency messages or warnings. Listen carefully and follow their instructions immediately!
Please, if you live in a senior community become familiar with any disaster notification plans that may already exist. Talk to your community management or resident council about how you can all be more prepared together.
Be aware—help inform others too. There may be people in your community that need extra assistance when a disaster occurs. Consider how you can assist them in their preparedness planning and during an emergency
If you need to evacuate, coordinate with your family and home care provider for evacuation procedures.
• Try to carpool, if possible
• Wear appropriate clothing and sturdy shoes.
• Take your disaster supplies kit – “go bag.”
• Lock your home.
• Use the travel routes specified or special assistance provided by local officials. Don’t take any short cuts, they may be unsafe.
To summarize, you need to take responsibility by planning now. Listen for information on the radio and TV about hazardous weather and other events, and heed the advice of local officials. Leave right away if told to do so. In some communities, people who need help or transportation during an evacuation need to make a plan now. Be sure you know your emergency management information about what to do during an evacuation. It is important to have alternative plans in case circumstances change. Gather essential supplies, and be sure to keep a list of medications and their dosage, a copy of your eyeglass prescription and other important papers to take with you if you have to leave your home. Stay safe Sonoma County! #sonomastrong
Julie Ann Soukoulis is the owner of Home Instead Senior care office in Rohnert Park, mother of two and passionate about healthy living at all ages. Having cared for her own two parents, she understands your struggles and aims, through her website, www.homeinstead.com/sonoma to educate and encourage seniors & caregivers. Have a caregiving or aging concern? She’s love to hear from you at 586-1516 anytime.