Health emergencies can arise in many forms—from a fall down cellar stairs to a bicycle accident to something more life-threatening. Do you know who to call? Do you know where to go? Do you know how to get there?
Often, an emergency strikes suddenly without warning. Sometimes, it's when you have guests or your routine is different.
Pause, and add "health emergency preparation" to your "to-do" list with these tips:
Prepare for Health Emergencies
- Write out emergency telephone numbers. (See below.) Post on your phone, in your wallet, glove compartment, and in several visible locations: refrigerator door, wall of outbuilding. Do NOT rely on a cell phone which may run out of battery.
- Keep a set of car and house keys, along with charged flashlights, outside somewhere near or in your car.
- Prepare a first aid kit and a portable kit for your car.
- Read the first-aid manual.
- Prepare a portable, waterproof pouch containing essential documents, including health documents.
Prevent Health Emergencies at Home
- Clearly mark and lock up all poisonous substances and medications. Don’t store poisons in recycled containers that still contain their original labels.
- Sit down and really read your manufacturer's instructions for using your home's heating equipment safely. Keep the system in good repair and to local code.
- Stay on the lookout for hazards that might cause falls or other injuries. (A friend of mine sustained a serious concussion by stepping on the working end of a rake lying on the ground.)
Prepare for Local Emergencies
No matter how widespread a threat or actual disaster, the preparation, experience, and recovery from an emergency are always local. With that in mind:
- Find out who supplies the emergency services in your county, town or city, and neighborhood. Practice driving to the local hospital and clinic.
- Scope out evacuation routes and the location of emergency shelters.
- If you or someone living in your household has a serious disability, inform emergency services offices about them and the nature of the disability.
- Encourage your town officials to conduct the necessary outreach and develop a list of disabled residents who might need extra assistance in emergency situations. Offer to help.
- Get to know your neighbors. Chat with them about their own emergency preparations. Perhaps they have special skills, expertise, or tools that would be useful in emergencies.
Stay Informed in Emergency Situations
Studies have shown that getting timely, accurate information about the nature of a threat and making plans to deal with it reduces people's fear and increases their resilience during and after an emergency. In serious disaster situations, well-prepared individuals and families also lessen the burden on emergency responders, medical workers, utility crews, and direct service providers.
- Do you have a serious health condition? If yes, working with your care providers, discuss the kind of emergencies that could arise as a result of the condition or the medication you take to prevent or treat it.
- See if courses in basic/advanced first-aid are offered in your community, and stay up to date on first aide.
You may find factual differences in the information provided by two or more of even the most authoritative and reliable sources. Sometimes, even information from the same source will change from one day to the next.
Some reasons why:
- Information evolves as new scientific data emerges, especially around human health issues.
- Experts from different technical backgrounds look at emergencies through many different lenses and may take different factors into account when offering guidance.
- Each individual, family, or community-wide emergency situation unfolds uniquely.
- Conditions surrounding the latest flood, ice storm, or pandemic will differ from those of the last one, in terms of the nature of the new threat, its potential for harm, the community resources available, and the most appropriate response strategies.
Crisis communicators often use conditional language—words such as probably, perhaps, until now, our best understanding. Although we crave authoritative and absolute certainty, such ambiguity encourages us to stay open to a changing information landscape.
Good communicators share what they do know, what they believe based on incomplete information, and say, "We don't know," when the facts remain unclear.
The last word: Planning for a health emergency is complicated! Get started today. Do you have more tips for health emergencies? Share your advice below.