All About Multiple Sclerosis

More MS news articles for August 2003

Disaster Preparation

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July 1, 2003
Teresa M Campbell
Real Living with Multiple Sclerosis

LIVING IN SAN Francisco, I'm aware that earthquakes frequently occur and that some result in loss of life and serious damage to buildings and roads. The heightened stress of the terrorist attacks on 9/11, the subsequent anthrax scare, and the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq have all increased my awareness of the need to prepare for any disaster.

I've become more sensitive to my surroundings and the need to report any suspicious or unusual behavior, objects, or occurrences to the police. I've learned not to allow anyone into my residence without first checking their identification through a chain-locked door. When I'm out, I avoid high-profile or symbolic locations and exercise extreme caution when traveling. I've learned to trust my instincts. I realize terrorists might well target the Golden Gate Bridge, but I have to use it to reach certain locations.

By reviewing emergency precautions (such as evacuation procedures and emergency exits in buildings I frequently use), I have gained a sense of control over what might happen. I've been present when fire alarms have gone off in the past and I'm aware of the procedures to follow.

Reading the newspaper every day has enabled me to become aware of possible biological, radiological, and chemical agents and what action to take in the event I encounter them. The most recent threat is severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), which started in China and has spread to many countries, including the United States. All such threats have increased my anxiety level.

The first step in preparation was to do a self-assessment and see what I'd do and what I'd need if a disaster affected my house or the city where I live. Would I be able to shut off water and gas valves if necessary? What would I need if I were unable to leave my home for at least 1 week? Who would be available to help me if I needed assistance? I'm a senior citizen with MS and limited mobility. Because I use an electric chairlift to access the first level of my house and am alone most of the day, these are important considerations for me.

In preparation for an emergency, I've taken the following actions.

Personal Support Network

This network is made up of individuals who will check with me in an emergency to ensure I'm safe and to provide assistance if needed. I have a designated individual call me every night to check on me. The calls rotate among different individuals so someone is always available to call me. If I don't answer the telephone, the individual calling knows to contact one of several other friends who have a key to my house and will check on me.

Each member of my network has a list of the other members and their phone numbers. If anyone is unable to call me, he or she can contact another name on the list.

I also have a relative who lives 100 miles away who is alerted to call me if a disaster strikes San Francisco and take appropriate action if needed. It's possible that a disaster striking San Francisco could affect all of the individuals I have asked to call me. When I'm on vacation, I inform everyone involved in my network so they will know I won't be at home.

My personal network also consists of numerous friends I can call to discuss crisis situations. Talking with others will decrease my anxiety level and perhaps help me with problem solving.

I've also signed up with an organization that will follow up to see that my needs are being met. If the electricity is disconnected, I'll need to be carried because my chairlift won't operate. If I have to leave my house and enter a shelter, I'm aware of what I'll need to bring; I'll also try to develop a network in the center.

Emergency Health Cards

I have numerous emergency health cards in addition to my Medic Alert bracelet with me at all times. The health card communicates to rescuers what they need to know should they find me unconscious or incoherent. It contains information about my diagnosis, medications, assistive equipment I use, allergies and sensitivities, doctors' names and phone numbers, and phone numbers of friends and family.

Supplies and Equipment

A 14-day supply of medication is kept near me at all times. I'm aware of any storage requirements and shelf life and keep this in mind when I store the medicines. My MS medication has to be refrigerated, and I would have to grab one or two bottles at the last minute and find a source of refrigeration as soon as possible. I also have copies of my prescriptions and ordering information in case I need to obtain refills.

I use my walker in the house and also have one in the basement, so either should be available to take with me when I have to leave. I would take my electric cart and battery charger, depending on the situation and available help.

I have a first-aid kit in my kitchen containing supplies I've purchased at a local drugstore. I've found it is less expensive to buy supplies than purchase a first-aid kit. My kit contains bandages, scissors, gauze, antibiotic ointment, a package of cotton balls, and tape. A bottle of hydrogen peroxide and cotton ball can be used for cleaning wounds. I also have a small flashlight in the kit. Two pairs of latex gloves are also included, and I'll ask persons assisting me with personal hygiene to use them. With limited water and increased health hazards, the possibility of infection increases. I carry a small whistle at all times so I can always get attention if needed.

I have a fire extinguisher in my den and I'm able to use it. I also have a good relationship with neighbors I can ask to assist me.

Food and water are important to maintain life. I have a 7-day supply on hand that includes frozen bread and cheese, cans of soup and juice, and gallons of distilled water. I also always have extra fruit, vegetables, crackers, and peanut butter on hand for everyday use. A manual can opener is available in case of a power outage. I might lose weight but I'll survive. Eating by candlelight may become an everyday occurrence, so I have numerous candles and large flashlights on hand, which I've had to use in past power outages.

I have water and food available for my dog as well. I also have a friend who will pick him up and care for him if necessary. Of course, he will have his favorite toy and blanket to take with him.

I hope I'll never have to use any of what I've stored and planned for, but I feel prepared for the worst.
 

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