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Storms present special problems for infirm

Authorities compiling list of those to help

POSTED: June 21, 2007 5:04 a.m.
As another hurricane season begins, the Liberty and Long County Health departments urge everyone to prepare now to protect their lives, loved ones and property before a storm approaches the coast.
Preparedness is important for all coastal residents, but critical for those with special needs.
“Evacuations are always tough, but getting to safety is especially difficult for people with special needs,” Annette Neu, emergency preparedness director for the Coastal Health District, said. “That’s why they should develop a plan with their caregiver, including when to leave, where to go and how to get there.”
Part of that planning may include a call to the Liberty or Long County Health departments to be added to the special needs registry. The departments keep lists of special needs citizens who may require help during an evacuation. The registry is for people who need observation, those with contagious health conditions requiring precautions, those with chronic conditions who need nursing care but don’t require hospitalization, and those needing help with medications.
Residents must apply to be on the registry, and the health department can help determine if you qualify. Some examples of people who belong on the registry include those with Alzheimer’s or dementia, those with portable oxygen in use, kidney dialysis patients or those who cannot sleep on traditional cots. However, those needing IV feeding or medication, or completely bedridden requiring total care do not belong on the registry, and would evacuate to a hospital instead. People living in nursing homes, assisted living facilities, and personal care homes aren’t eligible and must follow their facility’s emergency plan.
The departments provide the registries to local emergency management agencies.
In an actual emergency, response agencies will try to provide assistance, but this cannot be guaranteed. That’s why personal planning is crucial.
“Even the best managed shelters are often crowded and uncomfortable, so we encourage our special needs residents to make evacuation plans to go with a caregiver to a hotel or a relative’s home if possible,” Neu said. “While the special needs registry is a good tool to help us know where our most vulnerable residents are, it should always be a last resort for people with no other way to evacuate.”
For more information or to get an application, call 876-2173 in Liberty County or 545-2107 in Long County.
 

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