Welcome this is “Disasters Planning for Consumers of Mental Health Services” brought to you by the CAFÉ Technical Assistance Center. 

We all know that disasters can start quickly and often without any warning whatsoever.

Have you ever thought where you would be?  Would you be at work?  In the car?  Sleeping?  At the movies?  Or someplace else when disaster hit.

Disaster planning and recovery means being ready, knowing what to do, knowing how to do it, preserving your safety, and recovering after the disaster hits.

So what exactly can happen during a disaster?  You need to know what disasters are most common to your area.  You need to know how and when these are most likely to strike and what might happen if one of these disasters where to hit your community.

Learning about disasters is a very important component in planning.  So where did you learn about disasters what do you know about them?  Did you learned from the media?  From TV or newspapers after a major disaster in your community, or someplace else in the country?  Was it from your own personal experience or maybe the experiences of others.  Do you know how different disasters or emergencies could impact you, your home, your family, or your community?

Planning and preparation is very important; they are the first steps to safety.  In order to be safe you have to have knowledge, planning, and preparation.

Preparation is the key to surviving in a disaster, and managing the chaos is sure to ensue afterwards.  Communities must be prepared to manage under very undesirable conditions.  And individuals with mental health issues need to think about and plan for how all of this will affect them.

The best way to do this is build your knowledge base.  Know how to recognize disaster and its danger signals.  Memorize important information or write it down someplace.  Know how to call for help.  Know how and when to turn off the utilities at the main switches, and learn what a disaster might do to your community. 

Use that knowledge that you have.  Post emergency telephone numbers.  They ready to give brief, clear, specific instructions to rescue workers – remember, you might be nervous, you might be scared, you might be very anxious.  If you’ve written it down and practiced it, it will be much easier for you.  Planned the best evacuation routes from your home.  Pick two places to meet with the rest of your family.  Have an out of state contact.  Plan how to take care of your pets.  And connect with neighbors and others in your community.

So, exactly what are some of the things that might make consumers of mental Health Services different during a disaster?  Well, certainly their lives are already a bit more complicated.  They have to deal with medications, therapy, supports and services that help them get through the day.  Disasters are often on other emergency for them.  They have many things to think about and deal with and because of that there may be more at stake.  Persons with mental health needs may not react in the same way to stress or disaster-related effects.  And they may not be able to use the typical shelters or handle the chaos that happens after a disaster strikes.

An individual with mental health needs may benefit from personal support team or a disaster support team that can help them prepare for a disaster.  Should you do this, your team members may include other family members, were personnel, providers and mental Health Services, some of your friends, or other volunteers.  Now, these should be people that you trust and who will check in on you if you need assistance.  People who know your needs and will be able to provide help within minutes.  Now, think about it, do not depend upon one person.  Included a minimum of three people on your support team.  This is necessary because people who are close enough to you to get there should there be a disaster to check on you are also living in a disaster area as well, so they may have their own needs to take care of, their own family and their own home.

Putting your team into action.  First of all, teach that team.  Show them how to support you, give medications, and provide care according to your personal disaster plan.  Communicate with them.  Agree on how your support team will contact each other during a disaster.  Plan.  Develop a plan on how the team will work together and buddy up.  Ask your support team to notify you of possible disasters and help you put your plan into action.

So let’s just spend a few minutes talking about the planning process itself.

It’s a good place to start.  Everyone should have a disaster plan the matter who they are or where they live.  A disaster to hit anyone, any place, at any time.  Everyone should know what to do in the event of a disaster or an emergency.  Everyone should know how to plan and respond to a disaster.  And your mental health needs meet to be built on top of that basic plan.

The plan is critical and we’ll keep you safe and promote your recovery from a disastrous event.

Disaster and emergency planning is critical, and it’s a process not a piece of paper.  Planning includes making arrangements for many things that will help keep you and your family safe and healthy.  Planning should always result in a disaster packet.  In that packet might be emergency information forms on you and every member of your household.  These forms are useful should rescue workers have to tend to anything you might need.  And might also include other important papers, such as insurance papers, and it also includes a planning document that guides you and others in getting ready for, planning, responding, and recovering from a disaster.  And certainly we’ve all heard of an evacuation kit.  Planning should result in your of activation kit that will allow you and any other member of your household to stay safe and have all the supplies you need on hand.

One of the things that is important for disaster Packet is an emergency information form, sometimes called an EIF.  You know there are several kinds of emergency information forms that you can use to guide are planning process.  We’ve included one that we use at the CAFÉ TA Center on this website.  Whenever you decide to use, make sure the final form has your name, address, birth date, telephone number, social security number, local emergency contact person, and those numbers.  It should list family or other significant people in your life and their contact information.  It should have your out of town contacts, a primary Physician name and their contact, and any other contact that could assist in supporting you.

It should also have the hospital that you typically use, the type of insurance and maybe your policy number, your blood type, allergies and sensitivities, and other targeted information about your specialty providers, medication that you might take, specific medical conditions, physical limitations, how you communicate, and your cognitive capacity.

Other important papers might include insurance policy papers such as health, home owners, auto, or life; a short version of your medical records; medication inserts that describe the medications that you’re taking; pictures of you and your Family; and pictures of your pets.  This will help rescue workers in identifying the people in your household.  And if you become dislocated it helps them when they go out looking for you.

Emergency information such as that emergency information form, your plan, and other important papers can be put in a baggy and kept in the freezer inside the door.  You can keep another set in a vehicle, in your room, in your To-go bag should you have to evacuate.  You can leave a copy was a primary care doctor, your local EMS providers, maybe your mental health providers, and certainly at your work.

So How do you develop a plan?  We’ll start with a planned for you and or your family or other members of your household.  Complete a special needs assessment to identify what you might need.  Add to your plan the additional issues and needs that must be considered to keep you safe.  Ask other people in your life to review the plan, offer suggestions.  Be sure that you have a plan for while you’re away from home as well, such as work, or maybe doing recreational things like going to the movies.  Practice your plans and make changes as necessary.  Make sure that you know how to implement the plan the developed.

Caption your plan on paper is important.  You can use a plan template or develop your own.  Here’s a sample of one that we use at the CAFÉ TA Center.  Make sure you write down and share with others information on how you would prepare, and respond, and recover from a disaster and include this in your disaster kit.

Medical planning is important especially for individuals with mental health needs.  Talk with your doctor or mental health provider about helping with the care plan for disasters that are specific to your needs.  Ask your doctor where the best place for you it is in the event of a disaster.  Ask your doctor How you can check in with them after the emergency has passed.  Make sure that you understand and can explain your condition to others.

Share your plan and discuss your needs with other professionals in your life such as therapists, coworkers, pharmacists, care coordinators, peers, insurance providers, or others.  Their ideas and inside may add to your plan greatly.  They may think of things that you never thought of.

Some special considerations in terms of your medication.  Keep at least the two weeks’ supply on hand at all times.  Make sure that your insurance allows a two weeks’ supply and if they don’t ask what kind of supply you’re supposed to keep on hand In the event there’s a disaster.  Keep a copy of the script that’s used for that medication.  Keep a copy of the drug information.  That’s the little information that generally comes from the pharmacy with the medication or in the box when you open your medication up.  Keep the medication in the childproof and waterproof container.  Talk to your doctor or pharmacist about what you should do if you do not have enough medication in the event of a major disaster.

Those of us who have pets love them very much.  Veterinarians offices have disaster planning information for your pets to assist you so that you can plan for their safety as well.  Remember that not all shelters or hotels will allow pets.  Keep all of their shots up-to-date and keep those papers with you.  Keep that food on supply, at least a two weeks’ supply.  Now, if you must leave your pets secure them in the safest location possible.

Let’s do a disaster checkup.  Do you have a current care plan and list of medications from your Physician?  Have you completed that emergency information form?  Do you have or can you get the two-week supply of medication and supplies?  Have you discuss with your doctor the best place for you in the event that there is a disaster?  Do you know a local emergency management teams and neighbors that are aware that you have special needs and are familiar with those needs?  Do you have a disaster plan for when you’re not at home?

Let’s talk for a few minutes about disaster personnel.  There are many types of personnel that deal with disasters.  Some of these might include EMS Emergency Medical Services, firemen and police, first responders, emergency management directors or teams FEMA which is the Federal Emergency Management Agency, or Red Cross.  Work towards being comfortable with the help that these people who are specifically trained can provide.

Go right ahead and get used to talking to the rescuers.  Contact your area EMS to review your plan, explain what your unique needs are, and give them a copy of your emergency information form for their files.  This will give them a chance to ask questions and to get to know you better before a disaster.  Listen to them as they may have additional input and information on where, when, and how to prepare for disaster.  They can help you develop your disaster packet.

Some tips for working with emergency personnel include: indicate where information will be posted in your home, such as in a sealed plastic bag next to the refrigerator; be prepared to give clear specific directions, for example you might say to them “please explain to me everything that you’re doing in simple and easy-to-understand language” this makes it very clear to them that you one understand what they’re doing ahead of time.

Sheltering is critically important.  We stay at home?  Will you evacuate to a special center?  Will you go to a friend’s house?

Where should you be?  Some disasters will allow you enough advance notice to decide where you go.  For example, a hurricane can be tracked four weeks before it hits and you may carefully follow it as a pinch as its way towards you.

But some disasters will not allow that planning, such as a tornado, or a fire.

If you are a vacuum waiting and you’re sure that you have enough time, call your designated checkpoint, let them know that you are leaving and where you’re going.  Shut off your water, gas, and electricity before leaving the house.  Post a note telling others when you left and where you are going.  Make arrangements for your pets, lock your home, and use the route recommended by the authorities.

So where will you go?  A shelter?  A special shelter?  A hotel?  To a friend’s house?  To a drop in center or maybe to the hospital?

There are several options for you.  Sheltering in place means you’re going to stay home.  A shelter in the community is designated to be the shelter where people are supposed to go and it’s usually advertised ahead of time.  A special shelter is for individuals with special needs.  A hotel, well, remember that costs money and it may be full.  Friends are great if they are in a safe zone.  Drop-in centers often set up a place for persons they serve.  And hospitals serve the most extreme and are saved for the very ill and needy.

So some of the shelter considerations that you have to think about.  Can the shelter handle your needs?  Can you handle the setup?  What about the noise at, the crowds, the bright lights?  There is often little or no privacy and the very strict rules.  Will these be difficult for you and Willie clash with your mental health needs?

Regular shelters are for those people with controlled illnesses or disorders.  It’s intended for people who can take care of themselves or have someone with them that can help.  It’s for individuals who require very little assistance or care such as those that have medication controlled conditions, persons with visual, speech, or hearing impairments, or even persons on special diets.

Special needs shelters, hospitals, and care facilities are for those that are medically fragile, people who are medically dependent upon power for life support or medically dependent people who need care in all activities of daily living.  Some shelters and hospitals limit the number of family members to can accompany the person, so if you are heading tours a special need shelter with your family or with other individuals make sure that it allows them to stay with you as well.

Sheltering in place.  That means you’re staying home during a disaster.  You must have all of the supplies that you need and be able to manage all your needs by yourself for least three days.  Never ever stay at home if it is recommended that you evacuate by professionals.  Notify the local EMS and your care team if you decide to stay at home set up regular check-ins with the team members and have someone come by and check in on you after the emergency has passed.

So, what happens if you stay at home when you’ve been asked to evacuate?

Think about it this way: can I manage my needs for three days with little or no outside assistance?  Can I meet any crisis or emergency on my own for that period of time?  Can I make decisions about my needs without consultation or help for three days?  Do I have everything I need for three days?  You must be able to meet the basic needs as well as special needs such as medications, no access to therapy for lease three days, and preferably seven after the disaster strikes.

If the answer is no, get your things around, pack your bags and evacuate.

So, what you gonna put in those bags?  Let’s talk a minute about disasters supply kits.

When a disaster hits you will be better prepared by already having a disaster supply kit put together.

There are several types of disaster kits.  There’s a basic disaster stay in place kit.  That would be a kit that you would use in your home for the three day period.  There are portable disaster to kits, and a disaster kit for your car, and servicing animals and pet disaster kits.

Some of the stay in place kit basics include water, food, first aid supplies, supplies for special needs, tools, other family member supplies, sanitation, clothing and bedding, entertainment, and documents and other important items.

Grab and go to kits are often put in a backpack or something you can grab and take with you.  Do not count on a shelter to have everything that you need.  Customize that kit to meet your own unique needs.  And again, have a three day supply of everything.

You can keep all of these items safe in an airtight plastic bag or container.  Replace your water and stored food at least every six months.  Review and update your kit and needs at least once a year.

Let’s talk about the response and recovery period – that time after the disaster or emergency has passed.

Response period begins when the disaster hits or is imminent and extends until the individuals begin to put their lives back together or the recovery phase.

Plans will be put to a test when a disaster hits.  There are many things to consider when responding to a disaster and beginning the recovery process.

Some tips for you during this response time.  Stay calm.  Put your plan into action.  Stay in your home or other shelter.  Stay off the streets and do not drive around.  Evacuation if you are advised to do so.  Do not use anything in your home that has a fire such as a charcoal grill.  Listen to your radio for updates and directions.  Do not hide from officials - they are there to help you.  Keep all your pets and a safe and secure place.  Checked for injuries and give first aid or get help for seriously injured people around you.

Check for any damage in your home.  Fire, fire hazards, and other household hazards, gas leaks starting at the water heater, clean up spilled medication, bleaches, gasoline, and other flammable liquids immediately.  Call the contact person you listed in your plan if you have service.  Check on your neighbors if possible, especially elderly or other persons with special needs.  Stay away from downed power lines.  Put a sign in your home that shows that you have chosen to stay and locate you when the emergency passes.  Generally they will be going house to house looking for people who either stay home more survivors of the disaster.

After the disaster passes it is a time for recovery.  Keep the family together.  Calmly and firmly explain the situation and encourage everyone to talk about what happened and what it means to them.  Include children and youth in recovery activities.  And accept and get help for anxieties and fears and any other needs you might have.

Recovery is dictated by the impact of the disaster – how many people were injured, if people lost their lives, if buildings were damaged, and what the community looks like.  People in their communities will recover according to their own individual timelines.  There are no standards.  They will recover but at their own pace.

Don’t get caught up in the high.  Don’t get caught up in all of the excitement, the chaos and the drama going on around you.  Keep your routines and a regular schedule as much as possible.  Take advantage of all available support even if you don’t think you need it because later on the support may be gone and you may wish you’d taken it when it was there.  Eat regularly and get plenty of rest.  Watch for stress triggers and know when you have hit your threshold.

There are several things that you can do to reduce the impact of the disaster even if you have mental health care needs.  Create a personal support network that is specific to you, a network that understands and can work with you in the planning, in response, and recovery process.  Complete a personal assessment of all of your needs.  Know what you might need, when you might need it, and how to get it.

Be prepared.  The best way to take care of yourself in a disaster is to be prepared.

Believe that it can happen.  Often when a disaster strikes people will stand around afterwards and say that they can believe that it happened.  Disasters are happening at an alarming rate across the country.  Believe that a disaster can happen in your community too, and be ready for it.

Find help the head of time.  Get help with planning.  Get help with knowing what you need to do to respond and recover.  You might find this from disaster relief organizations, from churches, at community buildings and others.

There are many resources available to help you in planning, responding, and recovering from disasters.  SAMHSA has resource collections and toolkits are pertinent to disaster behavioral health fields.  The national mental health consumers self help clearinghouse has resources related to disaster planning, Response, and recovery.

And, the CAFÉ TA Center has many resources available on our website to assist you with disaster planning, response, and recovery.  We’ve also included with this training a planning guide for you to assist you in developing that disaster plan for you and your household.  We also have other information about how to put together a disaster supply kit.  The CAFÉ TAC is supported by SAMHSA to operate one of its five national technical assistance centers.  We provide technical assistance, training, And Resources that facilitate a restructuring of the mental Health System through effective consumer-directed approaches for adults with serious mental illness across the country.  We appreciate the time that you’ve spent with us today and we hope that the information that we’ve given you will make you better prepared and preserve the safety of you, your family, your household and your pets should there be a disaster.

Do you have questions?  If you have questions please feel free to send those questions through the website that this training is located on and we will get back with you with Information and resources as pertinent.  Thank you very much.