Emergency planning for disabled

Photo provided
Amy Jo DeKoeyer (left) and Jeff Boles (right) of the Finger Lakes Independence Center show the “Go Stay Kit” they
will distribute locally to people with disabilities and older adults with access and functional needs.
Photo provided Amy Jo DeKoeyer (left) and Jeff Boles (right) of the Finger Lakes Independence Center show the “Go Stay Kit” they will distribute locally to people with disabilities and older adults with access and functional needs.
Photo by Matt Montague

September is National Emergency Preparedness Month, and the Finger Lakes Independence Center (FLIC) is making an effort to include people with disabilities and older adults with access and other functional needs by supplying them with kits and checklists to help them plan for and react to an emergency.

“We are trying to get people with disabilities out of the mindset that they may be on some list to be rescued, that somebody will be right there to take care of them,” FLIC Advocacy Specialist Jeff Boles said. “It’s not true. You have to be prepared to be self-sufficient for up to 72 hours.”

Amy Jo DeKoeyer, FLIC’s student transition and deaf services coordinator, said that is because it may take 72 hours for the emergency responders to get to them.

“There might be 15 trees down and in the way,” she said.

Jan Lynch, FLIC’s executive director, said FLIC is mainly concerned with weather or man-made emergencies that could cause people to lose power, get snowed in or be flooded out.

“Our main message is ‘be ready,’” Lynch said.

FLIC began its planning for the campaign several months ago, when a visit from FEMA’s Jim Fleming started them thinking.

“Jim took us on an exercise with a large group of community members,” Lynch said. “That moved us to form a Core Advisory Group or CAG, including people with disabilities, people who serve those with disabilities and emergency responders like paramedics and fire fighters – anyone who helps those who might need helping.”

Boles said he sees the CAG as having three prongs.

“Outreach, education and inclusive preparedness – making sure that emergency preparedness is inclusive of people with disabilities,” Boles said.

He noted that some people with disabilities might not identify as such but still need to plan.

“We want the group to do things actively, not just talk about them, to move initiatives forward, to help people out there understand what we are doing,” Lynch said.

The first step in that direction will be at the annual Apple Harvest Festival in Ithaca from Sept. 26 to 29, where a grant from the United Way will provide checklists to those that need help planning for and responding to an emergency.

“People should make individual plans to be safe for 72 hours,” Lynch said. “The guide helps them think about things like clothes, medications, a list of their doctors and specialists and emergency contacts.”

Gadabout bought 50 backpack “Go Stay Kits,” with a water bottle, a whistle, a light and an organizer for information.

“This helps it all stay in place,” DeKoeyer said. “Whether they are going or staying.”

DeKoeyer listed some of the things the kits help people think about.

“For example, it’s a good idea to have a print-out of the medications you take from the pharmacy,” she said. “Emergency responders told us that sometimes, at the shelter, they don’t have the exact medicine needed. This list helps pharmacists meet those needs with comparable medications.”

She said this can include things like a USB drive with a person’s information on it, hearing aid batteries, back-up glasses and instructions for how to turn off the water and the electricity.

Also, have a plan for taking care of your pets, she said.

“In Katrina, people died because they had no plan to take care of their animals and they stayed with them,” she said. “[Have] diapers for babies, tags for the family with identification on them in case they get separated, pictures of the kids, a big door sign that says that you are OK or need help.”

DeKoeyer said people in congregated living communities like Longview may have a plan to stay in place or take people out.

“This will help those people decide what to take with you,” DeKoeyer said.

Boles said it is important to have a written plan.

“I have to work on mine,” Boles said. “For example, if I am out walking and if I am injured, I would need to communicate with a first responder. With my speech impediment, they may not be able to communicate with me. Communication, and the basic stuff about me, who I am and things like that would be real helpful in an emergency situation.”

DeKoeyer said it’s all part of what she tells people all the time.

“Don’t be scared, be prepared,” DeKoeyer said. “And, if you are prepared, you won’t be scared.”

For information on National Emergency Preparedness Month, visit ready.gov or tompkinscountyny.gov/tompkinsready.

In Brief:

Library to host “Cocktails and Costumes”

Eat, drink and be scary!

The Lansing Community Library will host its bi-annual fundraiser “Cocktails and Costumes” Oct. 18 from 7 to 10 p.m. at the Lansing Event Center.
The event is a fun adult night out of partying and dancing to support the library and its services.

Tickets are $50 per person and include dancing, appetizers, sweets and your first drink at the bar. There will be a costume contest and an art and quilt silent auction.

For more information and to purchase tickets, go to the library, see a trustee or member of the Friends of the Library organization, or e-mail info@lansinglibrary.org.


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