Entries in Natural Disaster (4)


Hurricane Caregiving: What's Best for Frail, Elderly?

Comstock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- As Hurricane Irene threatened the East Coast this past weekend, many sick, elderly residents were left debating whether to evacuate from their homes or ride out the storm.  Staying put could have put them in direct danger and hitting the road could result in added stress.

So where's the best place for frail patients to go during natural disasters such as Irene?

The American Red Cross says some fare better in shelters, which evaluate their medical needs and have nurses and emergency medical technicians available to address urgent issues.

However, going to a shelter "is always going to be the last thing you want to do," said Jim Judge, executive director of Lake-Sumter EMS Inc., in Mount Dora, Florida.  "If you're in a good, solid home're going to be far better long as you're not in a flood-prone area."

Judge, a member of the American Red Cross Scientific Advisory Council, advises families worried about an elderly parent or grandparent to ask local emergency management offices if they have plans to shelter "the elderly, the frail, individuals that might have medical conditions such as oxygen dependence."  Aides or caregivers can accompany them during shelter stays, he said.

Caregivers and families should make sure to ready emergency kits well in advance of disasters.  These can be assembled in a duffle bag, backpack or suitcase -- preferably on wheels, which are easier to maneuver -- and stored under the bed, so they can be rolled out for use at home, or taken to a shelter during an evacuation.

Although disaster preparation focuses on food, water, and medications, "the biggest problem we run into is oxygen for oxygen-dependent patients," Judge said.  Because power failures cut off the flow of life-saving oxygen through electric-powered devices, patients may want to consider portable machines that can be plugged into a car's DC adapter and run off the car battery, he said.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


How to Stay Safe during a Major Earthquake

Stockbyte/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- You're sitting at your desk, or in your kitchen, and all of a sudden the building begins to wobble.

To some people, the 5.8-magnitude earthquake in central Virginia Tuesday felt like a gentle rolling.  To others, closer to the epicenter, it was more violent.

And then it was over.  People from New England to the Carolinas to Canada were left asking, "What was that?"

If you live in California or southern Alaska, you probably know what to do in an earthquake.  But Easterners don't often feel tremors, and may not know how to react in a major emergency.  So how can you stay safe?

Here are some pointers from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) if you are caught in a major earthquake:

If You're Indoors:

-- Drop to the ground and take cover.  Get under a sturdy table or other piece of furniture, and hold on   until the shaking stops.
-- If you can't get under something, cover your face and head with your hands and crouch in an inside corner.
-- If you're in bed, stay there.  Cover your head with a pillow.
-- Doorways are not great places for shelter, even though emergency managers used to recommend them.
-- Stay put until the shaking stops.  FEMA says most injuries occur when people try to move to another place.
-- Don't use elevators if you've been in a major quake.  And don't be surprised if power goes out or sprinklers are activated.

If You're Outdoors:

-- Stay there.  Stay away from buildings, power lines, streetlights and other things that could fall on you.
-- People are rarely injured by the actual shaking of an earthquake.  Instead, falling debris is the greater danger.
-- If you're in a car, try to ease to a stop, preferably in an open area away from buildings, trees or overpasses.

Most people who felt Tuesday's earthquake did not need such advice as the quake was not violent enough.  But brick and masonry buildings did sustain damage -- more than one would see in California with its stricter building codes. And the quake was a reminder than even in the East, even between fault lines, there can be risks.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Report Reveals Gaps in Hospital Disaster Plans

YOMIURI SHIMBUN/AFP/Getty Images(ATLANTA) -- According to analysis done by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), U.S. hospitals are not prepared for a mass-casualty event such as an earthquake or chemical spill.

The survey, reported by Medpage, found that almost all hospitals had plans for responding to such occurrences, but that there were gaps and omissions within their plans.

Also, in cases where hospitals did put in place strategic planning, most failed to address the needs of specific groups such as children, according to Dr. Richard W. Niska and Iris M. Shimizu, PhD, in a National Center for Health Statistics report.

According to Niska and Shimizu's report, only 68 percent of hospitals had plans for dealing with all six major types of disasters -- epidemic-pandemic disease outbreaks, bioterror attacks, chemical accidents and attacks, nuclear-radiological events, large explosions and fires, and major natural disasters -- and just 20 percent had developed strategies to combat explosive-incendiary and nuclear-radiological events.

There were also deficiencies when it came to planning patient transfer arrangements with other hospital facilities in mass-casualties situations. Niska and Shimizu found that just 60 percent of hospitals had reached out to burn centers to assist with treatment in the event of explosions or fires.

In the event of overcrowding, the analysis showed that 25 percent of those surveyed had made no plans for expanding their facilities to accommodate for large numbers of deaths. Further, just 60 percent had planned for increasing their morgue capacity.

The report suggests that among the biggest omissions in planning came from cases that involved pediatric patients.

Also, less than half of the hospitals had developed a way to account for displaced families and lacked a strategy on how to reunite children with their family.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Disaster Preparedness: How Ready Is the US?

ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- Unlike troubled countries like Haiti, many experts agree that so far Japan, a developed country, has fared well overall in disaster preparedness, which is measured by the country's immediate response following an earthquake and tsunami.

But many may wonder whether Americans are as prepared to handle such natural disasters.

The United States has experienced an average of 50 natural disasters each year in the last decade, more than 560 total, according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).  The agency documented eight natural disasters this year already, mostly severe winter storms and flooding.

While there are national and local emergency plans in place, making the big picture response appear satisfactory, experts say it's likely that most Americans themselves are not prepared to handle emergencies.

Indeed, many state and federal government organizations have their own set of challenges.  A survey released Monday by the American Medical Association suggested many state health departments have no plan in place to assess human radiation exposure should a radiation emergency similar Japan's nuclear plant explosion should take place.

But experts say what could be as concerning is that family preparedness fares far worse than any governmental infrastructure.

"It's really in the personal preparedness phase rather than the response phase that we need to be paying more attention [to]," said Jonathon Links, director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Public Health Preparedness in Baltimore.

In fact, according to Links, most cities and towns across the United States have experienced some type of natural disaster.  Yet, it is estimated that only about 10 percent of households are prepared to handle emergencies.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio