Health & Fitness

Are you ready for Northwest storm season? Check out these tips

Winter is right around the corner, and local history tells us that bad weather – heavy rain, high winds, or even heavy snowfall — can bring consequences that impact our daily lives.

As the days get shorter and colder, people start to look forward to hunkering down by the fire with hot chocolate and a favorite movie. To stay safe this winter, however, we need to look forward in more ways than one. It’s important to prepare for local emergencies or power outages.

Communication: One way to stay safe this winter is to stay informed about the weather. Buying a NOAA weather radio can make this easy. An online shopping search for “NOAA radio” will bring 1,000 hits or more, ranging in price from less than $25 to more than $500. In addition, the NOAA Weather Radio website lists a transmitter that covers Thurston County. Transmitter WXM62 broadcasts from Capital Peak, and can be found at frequency 162.475.

There also is the Thurston County Alert system, which is operated by the Thurston County Department of Emergency Management. You must sign up, but once you do, you will receive alerts and information pertaining to police, fire, severe weather, health and safety. Registration is simple at https://www.co.thurston.wa.us/em/Alerts/ and you pick the delivery method: text, email or phone call.

Getting prepared is important for everyone, but for those with chronic and/or complex medical conditions, weather emergencies can make their lives much more complicated. Roads may become impassable due to ice, snow, or flooding. Clinics and pharmacies may close. Durable medical equipment suppliers may not be able to reach their home. Preparation is key.

Documents: Make copies of the following documents and place them in an easy-to-grab packet. Send a copy of this information to a trusted person somewhere your winter weather is unlikely to cause problems.

  • Photo identification.

  • Who to contact and how, in case you have an emergency. This should be a trusted family member or friend who can speak for you in a medical emergency if you are unable to speak for yourself.

  • Medical providers’ contact information and why you see each one.

  • Prescriptions and pharmacy contact information.

  • Medical insurance cards.

  • Medical equipment and supply vendors contact information and your account numbers.

Pharmaceuticals: Always have at least a seven-day supply of prescription medications, over-the-counter medications, and supplements you rely on. Even if you have to purchase a small amount of extra prescription medication out of pocket, make the effort to do so. It will be a small price to pay in an emergency with no alternatives.

Electricity-dependent equipment: Can your oxygenator or C-Pap machine run on battery back-up? How long can your electric wheelchair run on a charge? Do you need a portable generator to operate or recharge equipment? Now is the time to answer these questions and prepare for power outages. Contact your equipment providers for the most accurate information. There is special guidance for those on dialysis, for example, available through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention or through Home Dialysis Central.

Stock emergency supplies: Talk with your medical supplier about having extra oxygen and associated materials on hand for emergency use in case they can’t deliver for a period of time. Again, there may be an upfront cost, but when you need oxygen, the cash you didn’t spend will be a poor substitute.

Plan ahead to stay or go: Depending on how long the bad weather is predicted to last, you might be better off leaving home. Pre-arrange to do so with a friend or family member. Consider if it is safe to leave your house, and who can assist you if needed. You may only need to move closer to particular resources that are not available at your house or you may need to leave safely away until the danger has passed. Create a network of trusted people who will open their homes to care for each other when needed. You and those in your circle can help one another avoid a public shelter, or even prevent the potential to suffer in silence during an emergency.

Regardless of your health needs, this is a great time to make sure you’re ready for another Northwest storm season. More information is available at www.ready.gov, where you can learn how to make a plan, and what resources you need to be safe in an emergency.

Reach Dr. Rachel C. Wood, health officer for Thurston and Lewis counties, at 360-867-2501, woodr@co.thurston.wa.us or @ThurstonHealth on Twitter.
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