Seniors learn emergency preparedness

By Miriam King, STAFF

Innisfil Deputy Mayor Lynn Dollin learns more about the Canadian Red Cross from volunteers Peter McGuiness, right, and Howard Courtney, at Sandycove Acres in Innisfil. Miriam King/Bradford Times/Postmedia Network

Innisfil Deputy Mayor Lynn Dollin learns more about the Canadian Red Cross from volunteers Peter McGuiness, right, and Howard Courtney, at Sandycove Acres in Innisfil. Miriam King/Bradford Times/Postmedia Network

It takes preparation to deal with an emergencies – both on the personal and on the community level.

On May 6, Sandycove Acres retirement community held its annual Emergency Preparedness Day, inviting first responders, volunteer organizations, and municipal Emergency Management teams to share information and expertise with residents, and help local seniors be prepared.

Police, Fire, Paramedics were on hand to discuss personal safety. So was the Canadian Red Cross – an organization that responds to emergencies, from “Level One” (personal disasters, including flooding, house fires and evacuation), on up the scale.

Peter McGuiness, Senior Volunteer with Red Cross Disaster Management-Simcoe County, explained the scaling of the response. Level One is personal emergency, when “at 3 o’clock in the morning, they lose everything. We provide assistance for the first 72 hours – accommodation, clothing, food.”

In a Level 2 emergency, impacting a broader swath of the community – flooding, power outages, tornadoes – the Red Cross activates its emergency response teams and “rapid deployment models,” creating evacuation and reception centres for up to 50 people.

As the Level increases, so does the scale of the deployment. The Red Cross has “Sea Can” trailers filled with cots, blankets and other supplies, for up to 400, that are strategically located.  “Those are for major disasters, like the Fort Mac wildfires,”  he said.

The Red Cross works with other agencies, to determine where to send its resources. “We’re not first responders,” McGuiness said, but instead work closely with municipalities, paramedics, police and fire, the Salvation Army - “and the list goes on and on and on... No one organization can be all things to all people. You have to work as a team.”

The Red Cross also delivers on-going support to victims of disaster, funded through donations - including relief to the thousands displaced by flooding earlier this month, in Quebec, BC and the East Coast. McGuiness himself was on standby during the Sandycove event, prepared to be called out to respond to potential flooding in the Barrie area, following days of continuous rain.

Other displays included 211 Ontario, the 3-digit number that residents call to access social services – and a booth set up by the Sandycove Homeowners Association, that asked residents with mobility issues and health concerns to sign up, and provide information.  “It just helps paramedics and firemen” know which residents need help in an emergency response or evacuation, said volunteer James Stanton.

There was an emphasis on personal emergency preparedness. Display after display reminded residents that Emergency responders, in a widespread disaster, might not be able to reach all victims for 72 hours, or more. Power lines down, roads blocked by flooding, higher priority emergency calls could leave residents trapped and on their own for days.

The solution? A 72 hour Emergency Kit, containing hybrid or crank flashlights and radios, batteries, LED lights, emergency candles and matches, a first aid kit, thermal blanket, cash (in case ATMs are not available), a supply of fresh water and non-perishable food, manual can opener, hand sanitizer and wipes.
Some of the items on display went beyond the basics – including power converters allowing residents to use their car as a energy source, battery packs to recharge cell phones, portable camp stoves - even glow sticks, that seniors can put around tripping hazards to make them more visible in a power outage.

“It is so good that Sandycove holds this event every year,” said Bob Heffernan, County of Simcoe Emergency Management Training & Promotion Co-ordinator, with the clear message: “Plan, prepare, be aware.”

The Ontario Government has published a guide to Emergency Preparedness for Seniors. Step 1: Make a Plan.

. Identify two safe locations, in case of evacuation – such as a local municipal library, plus a location farther away, outside of the neighbourhood. Discuss the locations with family members and care providers.

. Develop a “Family communication plan.” Identify one or two out of town contacts that you and your loved ones can use to connect and share information.

. Create a list of all the persons in your personal support network – family members, neighbours, health care and personal support workers.

. Be ready to evacuate. Have an Emergency Survival Kit ready.

. Plan for your pets. Only service animals are allowed at most evacuation reception centres. Have a back-up plan – a carrier or pet cage, and a contact who can look after your pet if you are forced to evacuate.

. Practice your plan. In an emergency, listen to the radio for updates – and be prepared to follow the advice of first responders and officials.

Step 2 – Build an Emergency Kit.

Emergency kit should include the basics – non-perishable and easy to prepare food items, manual can opener, utensils, water (4L per person per day), flashlight, crank or battery-run radio, extra batteries, First Aid kit, hand sanitizer or towelettes, extra car keys and cash, whistle (to attract attention), medications, important papers (including copies of prescriptions) and any special supplies – dentures, prescription eye or footwear, equipment like walkers and hearing aids. If evacuation is planned, have extra clothes, shoes, a sleeping bag or blanket, personal hygiene items (soap, toothpaste, toothbrush) on hand, packed in an easy-to-carry bag or case. Remember to keep your cell phone or mobile device fully-charged.