Newberry Notes continues the discussion about emergency preparedness with Beth Bozard, county heath supervisor for DHEC Region 3, Newberry County Health Department and Roger Hovis, director of public health preparedness for DHEC Region 3, Blythewood.
• What about pets during and emergency situation?
In the event of a disaster you may be required to shelter-in-place or evacuate. During this period don’t forget to plan for your furry family members as they will rely on you for food, water, and shelter. Have a minimum of a seven day supply of food and water for your pet. If you need to evacuate make arrangements to kennel or take your pet with you. Locate pet-friendly establishments that are along your evacuation route. Keep in mind that your usual kennel may be within the evacuation zone, so you may need an alternate place that is further from home. Newberry County does have a sheltering plan for animals, but having a friend or family member who will take your pets and care for them if you are displaced, would be a better option.
• What should you do if you need to evacuate your home?
In the event of a disaster you may be required to evacuate. Prepare now so you and your family are ready. There are many types of events for which evacuations may occur such as fires, floods, hurricanes and other disasters. No matter the length of time needed to evacuate, having an evacuation plan in place will help you and your family to evacuate with as little stress as possible. Be sure to take your emergency kit that you have prepared in advance when you evacuate. Be sure to know which route you will take with at least one alternate route. It is important to follow local official’s instructions if the route is specified in a mandatory evacuation. If you are required to leave your home and need a place to go, a shelter may be available. In Newberry County, the Newberry High School gymnasium has been designated as the American Red Cross Shelter. Should the high school be inaccessible or unusable for some reason, you would be instructed of an alternate shelter site.
In addition, in South Carolina DHEC operates Special Medical Needs Shelters (SMNS). All people seeking shelter should report to the American Red Cross shelter where they will be screened and those who meet the criteria for admittance to the Special Medical Needs Shelter are directed to that shelter. Special Medical Needs Shelters can take a very limited number of occupants and are intended for those who are not so ill that they would be admitted to the hospital, but with conditions or problems that make the regular shelter inadequate or inappropriate (for example, someone on home IV medication or on oxygen continuously). One caregiver needs to accompany each patient in the SMNS and the patient should bring all their own medicine and supplies with them. Direct nursing care is not provided in the SMNS. The SMNS is not a comfortable place for those with some physical limitations. The SMNS is housed in one large room and each patient is assigned a cot. In Newberry County, the SMNS is housed at NCMH and can take 5 patients and one caregiver for each patient.
• What does shelter in place mean?
If there is an emergency, you might need to stay inside your home for a few hours or a few days. This would happen in incidents such as a nuclear accident or a train derailment causing a toxic chemical spill (remember Graniteville). This is known as “sheltering-in-place.” You will not be able to leave to go to the store, out to a restaurant, church or other destination. Sheltering in place typically means staying in your home or workplace, but it could also require you to take shelter in the nearest building. It may be necessary to limit your contact with outside air that may be contaminated with harmful agents or chemicals. The best place to shelter is inside a small, interior room with few or no windows. Sheltering-in-place is intended to keep you safe for a short time until it is either safe to go outside or you are taken somewhere else by rescue workers. Listen to local news and safety officials for instructions.
If you are told to shelter-in-place, you could be instructed to:
• Take your children and pets indoors right away. Do not attempt to get children from school, they will be sheltered.
• Cover your mouth and nose with your sleeve or a cloth until you can get inside.
• Close all windows and doors in your home.
• If instructed to do so, tape plastic garbage bags or plastic sheeting over windows.
• Tape around windows and doors to make an unbroken seal. Use duct tape to cover any exhaust fans, vents, electrical outlets or other openings.
• Turn off heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems until you are instructed that it is safe to resume their use.
• Close your fireplace and any other place air can come in from outside.
• Go to the room that you’ve picked ahead of time as your shelter room.
• Take your disaster supplies kit with you.
• Close window shades, blinds, or curtains if you’re told there might be an explosion. Stay away from windows.
• Stay in the room and listen to your radio or watch your local news until you are told it is safe to come out or if you have to evacuate.
• Take special precautions when using water from the tap. Listen for instructions to determine if water is safe to drink and if it is safe to use the toilet and other facilities.
• Follow the instructions of emergency workers to find the nearest shelter if you are away from your home during the emergency.
• Listen to local radio and TV stations to receive specific instructions.
• More information can be found at the CDC, American Red Cross and FEMA websites.
Bozard provides the following answers:
• What about other types of public health emergencies, such as a disease outbreak?
In the event of a public health emergency, such as an outbreak of contagious disease such as smallpox or plague or terrorist attack or earthquake, The Centers for Disease Control maintains the Strategic National Stockpile (SNS). This is large quantities of medicine and medical supplies to protect the American public if there is a public health emergency severe enough to cause local supplies to run out. Once Federal and local authorities agree that the SNS is needed, medicines and medical supplies will be delivered to any state in the U.S. in time for them to be effective. Each state has plans to receive and distribute SNS medicine and medical supplies to local communities as quickly as possible.
In such an event, we would use the gymnasium at Newberry High School as our point of dispensing and the public would be advised to go to Newberry High School to receive their medication or vaccine.
It is very important to plan ahead. Hopefully you will never need to execute your disaster plan, but if an emergency situation does arise, having a plan could save your life.
If you would like more information, DHEC, CDC, American Red Cross and Fema are excellent resources. We also have some pamphlets at the Newberry Health Department and would be glad to answer any questions our readers may have.