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Fire Safety for People With Physical Challenges

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In a society where many enter and exit their homes through their garages into their vehicles, years could pass before one ever meets their neighbor! In the name of convenience, we avoid conversations with the family next door because we’re too busy or just not sure we want to engage at all. What has happened to us? Have we forgotten how to connect with one another? Does it take an emergency situation like a fire, flood or earthquake for us to snap out of our bubble and take a look at who is living next door?

People with physical challenges have a daunting task when it comes to navigating the threat of fire. Here are some fire safety tips to make sure everyone has the ability to be safe in the midst of an emergency situation.

Fire Safety Begins With Planning Ahead

Emergencies become catastrophic when our communities can no longer provide the resources necessary for the safety of all. When there are multiple fires or aftershocks taking place, our fire and police departments will attend to the regions that are most impacted and where they can do the most good. It is not uncommon for certain areas to go for days without emergency assistance. First responders are trained to help the people who are in the most critical areas first. It is our responsibility to have a plan in place for our own households.

Understand Fire Safety and the Hazards in Your Area

Make use of Twitter for the emergency updates from your fire department, city, police and highway patrol. Knowing what roads are closed will save time and frustration during an evacuation. Keep in mind that watching too much news may escalate fear. When people are already feeling panic and pressure, they don’t need more! The first responder sites provide updates from their perspective with your safety as top priority.

Create emergency options for transportation, adult day care and shelters. If your loved one is being assisted by a care giver, make sure to communicate the game plan to them. Are they supposed to take your loved one to a friend’s house, or to family members outside of the endangered area? How will they be transported there if you can’t get to them? Find your local area emergency sites before you need them. These sites will provide updates on shelters that have closed, new ones opening and those that are full. Have appropriate provisions in place for disabled individuals and those who do not speak English.

Residential Care Communities

If your loved one is living in a property like this under someone else’s care, familiarize yourself with their emergency procedures. Is the property a two-story complex? If there is only an elevator and the electricity is out, then what? Do they have a stairlift that can also run on battery? How will people be evacuated if they are in wheelchairs? Do they have a Vertical Platform Lift or Garaventa Stair Trac available that can also run on battery?

Out of State Contacts

I remember in the dark hours of the 1994 Northridge earthquake we were unable to make calls out of LA County. And yet 10 minutes after the quake hit, my emergency contact in Chicago was able to call us! She was our contact base for all CA family members. Because we had this in place, we could be assured of one another’s safety even though the CA folks could not call each other. Having this in place may not make sense until you need it!

The 6 P’s

People & Pets, Plastics, Pills, Papers, Photos – Make sure there is a plan for every person in the home. Have the following items in a safe spot with easy access if you need to leave quickly! Your plastic credit cards, ATM cards, cash, medications, important papers, phone numbers, personal computer, hard drives, flash drives and pictures or precious items that can’t be replaced. What are your important papers? Social security cards, ID cards, Insurance papers (in case you need to contact them), VA documents, medical cards and passports.

Those Who Need Special Assistance

70% of all rescues during an emergency situation are done by neighbors! Get to know your neighbors before you need them. All people caring for those with physical, sensory or cognitive disabilities should heed an evacuation warning as an evacuation order and leave the area immediately. It could take additional time to get to safety, so moving quickly with a plan in place is better than leaving everything for the last minute in a frenzy of chaos.

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