Public Safety

New Disaster Plan Targets People who Need Assistance, Caregivers

A disaster planning template released Thursday is a step-by-step guide to help San Diegans with medical, mobility, speech, or cognitive needs get ready for emergencies.

The County Office of Emergency Services developed the new Disaster Preparedness Plan for people who may need assistance and their caregivers to help people with disabilities anticipate special plans or supplies they would need to evacuate suddenly or get by on their own after a disaster.

In conjunction with the newly released plan, the Office of Emergency Services is offering two free disaster preparedness trainings at SDSU Saturday. The first one is for caregivers, the second is for licensed residential care facility administrators.

“The process of being prepared isn’t the same for every household. Some families may require more specialized planning than others,” said Supervisor Dave Roberts, who introduced the new disaster plan at an Encinitas elderly care facility on Thursday. “In the event of a disaster, we want to make certain that all San Diegans make it through safely.”

Office of Emergency Services Director Holly Crawford said the new planning template and trainings are part of the County’s inclusive approach to emergency management.

“Disasters leave some groups more vulnerable to impacts than others,” said Crawford. For example, she said, in New York City on 9/11, workers on the upper floors of the towers were more vulnerable than those on lower floors, and people with disabilities who couldn’t use the stairs were more vulnerable than people who could run. During Hurricane Katrina, low income citizens without a vehicle had more difficulty evacuating than Gulf Coast residents who owned vehicles.

The new 30-page disaster planning template is designed to be completed with the help of a home care provider or family member.

“Caregivers play an essential role in the day-to-day lives of the people under their care, and also in disaster preparedness,” Crawford said. “Home care providers can take steps now to ensure the people they care for have what they need to survive and recover from a disaster.”

In some ways, the new plan is similar to the County’s existing Family Disaster Plan template. It asks people to locate and map evacuation routes, establish out of state contacts to check in with if local phone lines are jammed, and build a disaster supply kit.

But there are additional steps aimed at people who need assistance. The plan’s first section asks people to establish a formal support network of at least three people who have committed to check immediately after a disaster on  those who need assistance. The plan says the people in the network should be familiar with the individual’s particular circumstances and needs, know how to operate his or her assistive technology or medical devices, and have a key to the house.

Other elements include pre-designating accessible locations where the individual could stay if he or she needed to evacuate during a disaster and conducting an assessment of challenges and needs that a disaster would bring. Is there a service animal that needs to be considered? How long will critical assistive equipment last during a prolonged power outage?

The plan also lays out a realistic 16-week calendar of actions, so individuals and their caregivers do a little each week to build a survival kit and make disaster preparations without getting overwhelmed.

About 200 caregivers and facility administrators are expected to attend the trainings Saturday at SDSU to help them learn more about disaster planning. Crawford said there are hundreds of residential care facilities in San Diego that serve the elderly and other adults who need assistance. Some of these facilities have only rudimentary disaster plans. The Saturday training is a first step in helping them to consider the complexities of preparing for a disaster.

“Residential facilities have their own emergency planning challenges,” Crawford said. “In a disaster, resident safety and wellbeing will depend on the facility’s preparations. Helping facilities prepare means helping protect all San Diegans.”

Download the new Disaster Preparedness Plan for people who may need assistance and their caregivers.

Limited spots are available to home caregivers and residential care facility administrators Saturday. Call toll free 1-855-630-9900 for more information and to reserve a spot.