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Overton Brooks VA Medical Center


September is National Preparedness Month

National Preparedness Month

Tornado (Photo provided by NOAA)

By Joe Thomas
Tuesday, September 16, 2014

September is National Preparedness Month; however, Rhonda Woolridge, Emergency Preparedness Coordinator, Overton Brooks VA Medical Center, says that preparedness should be constant.

“We should be preparing ourselves all the time,” Woolridge said. “People should be able to sustain themselves for 72 hours in the event of an emergency.”

Although, emergencies can range in scope from natural disasters to terrorist attacks, severe weather is the most prevalent emergency in the Greater Shreveport Area, according to Woolridge.

“We had a tornado four years ago,” Woolridge said, “but we also had an EF 1 tornado in Mansfield (Louisiana) a year ago that caused a lot of damage. Any thunderstorm can spurn a tornado. They can happen with little or no warning.”

According to FEMA literature, everyone should have two kits filled with emergency supplies— a larger one for staying at home and a smaller kit in the case of an evacuation. A gallon of water per person per day is first and foremost on the list. Non-perishable foods, such as protein bars and dried fruit, are next. This is followed by sleeping bags and warm clothes depending on the weather. A list of essential kit items are listed below.

However, life-sustaining medication and equipment is just as important as water, according to Woolridge.

“You can live a long time without food, but not very long without water,” Woolridge said. “However, life-sustaining medication is just as important. For instance, if someone is diabetic, they need to have a 72-hour supply of insulin.”

Those individuals who require oxygen should also prepare to have additional oxygen tanks for this reason, according to FEMA literature.

Although severe weather is more common than other disasters in the local area, Woolridge warns that contamination events — or events in which breathable air is compromised — are still a possibility.

“The most probable cause (for a contamination event) is a train derailment or semi-truck accident in the event that those vehicles are carrying hazardous materials,” Woolridge said. “Should that happen, the best protection is to move away from the direction of the wind. In other words, if the wind is blowing from the north, move east or west. Fortunately, we have not had a major incident in our area for quite some time. One of the most recent big events was in South Carolina a few years ago when railcar carrying chlorine derailed and lost its load.”

Woolridge also adds that single person contamination events are more common than any other type, often taking place at home or at work. Spilling fuel or household cleaners are examples. However, even those small scale incidents can be significant to people with breathing issues. Unfortunately, most individuals involved in these events do not seek medical treatment.

According to literature provided by Woolridge, the air conditioning and heating units may distribute contaminated air throughout the household. For this reason they should be turned off. Dust masks, which can be purchased at many department stores, should also be included in emergency preparedness kits for this reason.

“People should also plan for their pets as well,” Woolridge said. “You need to make sure that you have paperwork such as shot records and prescriptions (for your pets). You should also make sure that you have a three-day supply of pet food.”

As the medical center’s Emergency Preparedness Coordinator, it’s Woolridge’s responsibility to have an evacuation plan for the hospital in the event of an emergency.

“During my time here I haven’t had to evacuate the whole hospital,” Woolridge said. “So far we’ve only had to evacuate laterally, which means moving patients and staff from one wing of a floor to another.”

Not only is Woolridge responsible for evacuating patients staff, she also works in tandem with surrounding hospitals to admit evacuees if need be. During the month of September, she has established a booth in the main lobby with information regarding disaster and emergency preparedness.

“It’s important that everyone take a flyer and read through it, but I would say that the most important take away would be that everyone needs a survival kit and a plan,” Woolridge said.

For more information about National Preparedness Month or emergency preparedness in general, contains material regarding preparation kits and emergency plans for home and the workplace. A list of essential kit items are provided below.

 Essential kit items include:

  • Water
  • Food
  • Battery-powered radio
  • Flashlight and extra batteries
  • First Aid Kit
  • Whistle
  • Filter Mask
  • Moist towelettes
  • Wrench or pliers
  • Manual can opener
  • Plastic sheeting and duct tape
  • Garbage bags and plastic ties
  • Unique family needs


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