PREPAREDNESS: Whitley County Health Officer gives tips to residents

Dr. Lisa Hatcher, Whitley County's Health Officer
Staff Writer

Autumn is always the time for national preparedness.

In fact, September was National Preparedness Month. I’m not sure how the month was chosen, but given the number and intensity of hurricanes, and the floods and tornadoes that have spawned in recent weeks, maybe the question is moot.
Recent events have highlighted the need to be prepared for those emergencies where you might experience the loss of utilities, the unavailability of water and sewer, the lack of food supplies and the need for evacuation of large numbers of people to safe locations with mass emergency housing.

Of course, in Northeast Indiana, we don’t need to prepare for hurricanes, but tornadoes and blizzards are events that should be on our preparedness radar.

Not all emergencies are weather related.

There are also threats of infectious disease epidemics like influenza, food borne diseases, and hazardous substance spills.
There are also the rare occasions when fire in a factory releases hazardous fumes and requires the evacuation of people from their homes.

Your Whitley County Health Department has emergency plans to manage emergency evacuations, mass immunization clinics or prophylactic medication distribution. The staff trains in mock emergency situations to manage these emergencies.
Of course, none of this is done in a vacuum.

Multiple agencies are involved in meeting emergency needs. Whitley County is fortunate to have an Emergency Management Agency that coordinates activities among emergency medical services, hospitals, the health department, firefighters and law enforcement, utility providers and many other organizations that come together to support our community in times of crisis.

Preparedness activities take place behind the scenes. Various types of emergencies are discussed and responses are planned. Equipment is acquired and communication lines are established. Community resources are evaluated and potential shelters are identified. Rosters of important workers and volunteers are updated. Responses to a variety of potential threats are discussed and practice run-throughs are executed.

Preparedness is personal

It’s comforting to know that plans and preparations are done on a community level. It’s also important for you to know what you can do on a personal level to be prepared.

It is recommended that each household identify a meeting place for all family/household members to meet in the event of an emergency.

Not too many years ago, nearly every home had a land line telephone. The phone company often included recommendations in the phone book for an emergency kit for your home. Now you can find these recommendations online.
An emergency food and personal care kit should be assembled. This should include a gallon of water per person for at least three days, flashlight with spare batteries, wind up or battery operated radio, non-perishable food stuffs that can be eaten without heating (vegetables, tuna, canned meat), can opener, five-gallon bucket or plastic garbage bags to be used in lieu of a toilet, toilet paper, toiletries, a first aid kit, baby supplies if there is an infant in the house.

A whistle or some other noisemaker to signal for help in case you are trapped is also suggested. Blankets are also useful. There should be a reminder on the outside of your emergency kit to take any prescription medications with you if you have to hole up in a cellar or evacuate somewhere.

Cell phones are great if cell towers are operational, but extra power packs or external power sources are important to keep them functional. Having a car charger for your phone can be a way to recharge your cell phone if you have access to your car.

Meteorologists and weather watchers can help alert us to the need for taking shelter. Being prepared with an emergency kit for your family can make the sheltering a little more comfortable.

Hopefully, you will never have to use your emergency kit, but if an emergency occurs, being prepared can make the experience a little less traumatic.

Dr. Lisa Hatcher is Whitley County’s Health Officer. The Whitley County Health Department is located in the Government Center at 220 W. Van Buren St., Suite 11. Hours of operation are 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday-Friday. Phone number is 260 248-3121.