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Prepare before storms
Residents with special needs should contact health department
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The Liberty and Long County Health Departments are urging the public to prepare now to protect their lives, loved ones and property before a storm approaches.
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. The health department can help determine those who 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.
People needing IV feeding or medication, or who are completely bedridden and require total care, do not belong on the registry. Instead, they would evacuate to a hospital.
People living in nursing homes, assisted living facilities and personal care homes are not eligible and must follow their facility’s emergency plan.
The departments provide the registries to local emergency management agencies. Duuring 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 about how to prepare or to get an application, call 876-2173 in Liberty County or 545-2107 in Long County.
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