24 October, 2013

Add health needs to your emergency checklist

In October I participated in a number of media interviews that focused on the need for members of the community to be 'health prepared' for disasters. These interviews were undertaken within the context of bushfires. At the time of the interviews, a number of large bushfires were devastating regions of New South Wales.

Print media appearances:
  • ‘Add health needs to your emergency checklist’; print media in Canberra Weekly, 24th October

Article above from the Canberra Weekly

Radio media appearances:
  • Adding health needs to your emergency checklist; radio interview on ABC Radio Illawarra, 20th October
  • News headlines regarding ‘adding health needs to your emergency checklist’, on the following: FM 104.7 (Canberra); Mix 106.3 (Canberra)

Media release:

Australians should not only prepare their house and belongings against the threat of bushfires, floods or storms this summer, but also be ready to look after their health during an emergency, advises a University of Canberra disaster response expert.

Jamie Ranse, a health academic who specialises in disasters, said that in the wake of a major incident emergency services are stretched and medicines are in short supply, so residents should be ready to look after themselves.

“When preparing for potential evacuation, people often think about sentimental items they would like to take with them, such as photo albums and computers, but they often forget to think about items that will support their health needs,” he said.

Mr Ranse said during previous disasters such as the Queensland floods, Victorian and Canberra bushfires, people were relocated to evacuation centres where they remained for days or weeks.

“Whilst in these centres, a number of people required medications of some kind. However, during a disaster, medications become increasingly hard to access, and this is made even harder if people don't know what medications they take.”

Mr Ranse said there are a few simple steps people can take to be health prepared, including preparing a list of previous medical and surgical history, as well as a list and a supply of current medication.

“This list should be placed with other items you might take in an evacuation such as blankets and warm clothes. People should also have a basic understanding of first aid and have a small first aid kit in an accessible location.

“It’s also a good idea to get to know your neighbours as you may be able to help them prepare for a disaster, or provide assistance during a disaster.

“It is important that people are as self-sufficient as possible as emergency services are stretched beyond capacity, and they will not be able to respond in a timely matter to minor injuries or ailments.”

Key points for being health prepared:
  • Have a current list of medications, ailments and previous medical/surgical history. 
  • Keep this list with other items you might take in an evacuation, such as photo albums or computers 
  • Keep a stocked first aid kit in your car 
  • Learn first aid and know basic first aid principles such as how to control bleeding, how to open an airway and how to do CPR 
  • Get to know your neighbours, you might need each other’s help in an emergency


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