Category Archives: Disaster Preparation

ER docs give Washington a D+

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The American College of Emergency Physicians has given Washington state a “near failing D+” in the its annual state-by-state report card assessing the nation’s emergency services.

Overall the state ranked 35th in the nation, down from its ranking of 19 in the College’s 2009 report, which that year gave Washington a C.

Screen Shot 2014-01-16 at 15.21.58 Continue reading

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Don’t use grills or gas generators in enclosed areas – Department of Health warns

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From the Washington State Department of Health

Power outages may raise risk of carbon monoxide poisoning

Charcoal grillDon’t use grills or gas generators in enclosed areas

January 10, 2014 – Barbecue grills and gas generators may seem like they could double as an indoor furnace during a power outage, but that can be downright dangerous.

Neither should be used inside to heat homes, as families could get sick and even die from carbon monoxide poisoning.

Carbon monoxide, or CO, is a poisonous gas that can’t be seen or smelled and can kill a person in minutes. Carbon monoxide is produced whenever any fuel such as gas, oil, kerosene, wood, or charcoal is burned. It can quickly build up to unsafe levels in enclosed or semi-enclosed areas.  Continue reading

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In case of tornado, electronic health records can be just the prescription

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Radar debris signature from the Moore tornado.

Radar debris signature from the Moore tornado – National Weather Service

By Jenny Gold

Everyone expects a hospital to be ready to jump into action when disaster strikes. But what about when the disaster devastates the hospital itself?

Turns out, it helps a lot to have an electronic medical record system in place.

At least that was the case at Moore Medical Center in Oklahoma, a small hospital right in thepath of the tornado that ripped through the suburbs of Oklahoma City on Monday.

Three-hundred people — staff, patients and community members — hunkered down in the cafeteria, stairwells and chapel as 200-miles-per-hour winds demolished the building around them.

One patient in labor stayed on the second floor with two nurses, where they could continue to monitor the fetal heartbeat.

Amazingly, everyone survived. Within an hour, 30 patients had been transferred to the two other hospitals that are part of the Norman Regional Health System. And every one of them arrived with their medical histories fully intact. The woman in labor even delivered a healthy baby later that evening.

“The transfer was totally seamless,” says John Meharg, director of health information technology at Norman, which has had an electronic health record system for the past five years. “We’re very fortunate that we’re a little ahead of the game,” he said.

If the hospital system had still been using paper, Norman explains, “the first thing we would have had to do was find their records. And with all of the hustle and bustle of a disaster, they can easily get lost.”

As for any records left behind in files, he continues, “if the tornado doesn’t get them, the subsequent rain would ruin them. The roof’s gone, the walls are gone, and the windows are gone.”

Instead, physicians at the two transfer hospitals were able to pick up care for the Moore patients where their home physicians left off.

Even if the patients had been taken to hospitals outside of the Norman system, their records would still have gone along with them.

That’s because Oklahoma City has a regional health information exchange that allows the various hospital systems in the area to access all patient records, says Meharg.

“I’m very happy,” he adds, breathing a sigh of relief. “The systems never missed a beat. It would really have been a mess if we weren’t electronic.”

This article was reprinted from kaiserhealthnews.org with permission from the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. Kaiser Health News, an editorially independent news service, is a program of the Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonpartisan health care policy research organization unaffiliated with Kaiser Permanente.

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Snohomish emergency preparedness event seeks to engage diverse communities

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Photo by Ada Be

Photo by Ada Be

Snohomish County will sponsor an emergency preparedness event next week that will focus on engaging the county’s diverse communities.

The EMPOWER emergency preparedness fair will seek to break down the barriers between emergency responders and minority communities through a day of presentations, information sharing, resource tables, and demonstrations, from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m., Sat., April 20 at Everett Station, 3201 Smith Ave., Everett.

The event is free and open to the public, and includes complimentary continental breakfast and lunch. Walk-ins are welcome or you can register at Brown Paper Tickets.

The day will have two educational tracks: One for community residents to learn more about being prepared for emergencies, and another for emergency responders to learn ways to respond more effectively to a diverse community.

“This fair is for people who want to learn more about getting prepared for earthquakes, storms, and other disasters,” said Therese Quinn, event organizer and Medical Reserve Corps coordinator. “It is also for emergency responders and planners who want to learn more about working with vulnerable populations.”

Morning presentations follow a welcome by Snohomish County Sheriff John Lovick.

The emergency responder track will hear a hands-on diversity panel discuss “What you need to know when you respond in my community.” Panelists will include individuals from the Iraqi and Latino communities, and lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community.

The panel discussion will be followed by speaker Conrad Kuehn from the Northwest ADA Center, presenting “Disability Language and Etiquette.”

The community education track includes a presentation on how to prepare for an emergency and make an emergency kit. Following the kit demonstration, a panel will discuss the mission of emergency responders as public safety — and not immigration enforcement.

Panelists include Dave Alcorta, Red Cross; Sgt. Manny Garcia, Everett Police Department; and John Pennington, Snohomish County Department of Emergency Management.

The lunchtime keynote speaker will be National Fire Academy Instructor Leslie Olson, who will talk about the importance of cross-cultural communication.

All presentations and the lunch keynote speech will be interpreted into Spanish and translated by Communication Access Realtime Translation (CART) for the deaf and hard of hearing.

The event is the result of community partnership among Snohomish Health District, Tulalip Tribes, Fire District 1, Starbucks, Communities of Color Coalition, Snohomish County Emergency Management, Medical Reserve Corps, Puget Sound Energy, City of Everett, and South Everett

Photo courtesy Ada Be via Flickr

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NYU 300

Four NYC hospitals still closed by hurricane Sandy

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Generators sit outside the NYU Medical Center after the Sandy superstorm on Oct. 31 (Photo by Matt Kane via Flickr).

By Fred Mogul, WNYC

Three weeks after Hurricane Sandy, four New York City hospitals remain closed for inpatients, leaving thousands of patients scrambling to find other medical centers to treat everything from broken bones to brain cancer.

The closures of NYU Langone Medical Center, Bellevue Hospital Center, the Manhattan VA Medical Center, and Coney Island Hospital have meant more business for some nearby hospitals and an unwelcome extra burden for others.

St. Luke’s-Roosevelt Hospital is in the former group. When the hospital, near Columbus Circle in Manhattan,  opened a $21 million cardiac electrophysiology center in September, officials figured it would take months to build up enough patients to reach full capacity.

The center’s state-of-the-art equipment helps doctors recalibrate faulty electrical impulses in the heart that cause arrhythmia. Before Sandy, there were about a dozen procedures a week, but now that displaced NYU doctors and patients are coming to St. Luke’s-Roosevelt, there are about 18 a week.

Dr. Emad Aziz says that’s a big jump in a short amount of time, particularly for a complicated and expensive procedure that can take up to eight hours.

This story is part of a reporting partnership that includes WNYCNPR and Kaiser Health News.

“We really wanted to accommodate them,” Aziz said. “And it turned out to be really nice. It’s a great opportunity on a personal level, to assist them in a time when they have that big damage.”

Of course, the closures have been a big problem for many patients and hospitals, too.

Eileen Wal, of Atlanta, is a breast cancer patient who planned to fly to New York next month for reconstructive surgery at NYU. After Sandy, her surgeon, Dr. Robert Allen, has nowhere else to operate locally.

He also practices at Manhattan’s Eye and Ear Infirmary, but that hospital has been filled to capacity, thanks to the cascading effects of Sandy.

“They have no O.R. time available,” Wal said. “Now some may pop up, but if it does it would only be very last-minute. So the only people who could take advantage of it would be someone who’s local to New York.”

Fortunately for Wal, her surgeon spends half his time working and teaching at Ochsner Baptist Medical Center in New Orleans, so she can go there for the operation. But she’s not looking forward to spending time in The Big Easy.

“The surgery in New York was far easier for me logistically,” Wal said. “One, it has public transport, and, two, you walk out of your door of where you are, and you have food. You don’t have to deal with anything. It’s all very simple. New Orleans, basically, there’s nothing there. [The hospital] in the middle of nowhere.”

When it’s up and running, NYU performs about 2,700 inpatient procedures a month. Officials haven’t estimated how long Tisch Hospital, the core facility, will remain closed, but other medical centers are bracing for it to be months.

Lenox Hill Hospital, on the Upper East Side, was operating well under capacity before Sandy. It has about 600 beds, and daily occupancy was running “in the mid-400s,” according to Dr. Arthur Klein, regional executive director for North Shore-Long Island Jewish, Lenox Hill’s parent system.

Since Sandy, there are about 100 additional inpatients a day, and the operating rooms stay booked well into the evening and on weekends. Lenox Hill, which has struggled financially, has fast-tracked admitting credentials to about 300 NYU doctors and is additionally employing close to 500 NYU nurses.

Nearby New York-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center is not so eager to take on more patients and isn’t credentialing NYU doctors. The CEO, Dr. Steven Corwin, says his hospital can barely keep pace with the increased number of people coming into the emergency room. And he’s concerned about what might happen in the event of a big public health crisis.

“If we were to have a significant flu season over the winter time, that would further hamper our ability to respond,” Corwin said.

Of the four closed hospitals, only NYU lacks a network and sister institutions to place patients. The Manhattan VA has transferred most of its inpatients to the Brooklyn VA.

Bellevue, the largest shuttered facility, and Coney Island are part of the city’s Health and Hospitals Corporation, with nine other hospitals.

Coney Island Hospital has recently reopened for 24-hour urgent care, specialty clinics and primary care clinics but its inpatient operation is still closed.

Bellevue is planning to reopen “limited primary care outpatient services” on Monday, according to its website.

By all indications, the placement of NYU patients to other institutions has been piecemeal.

“I would’ve thought in this sort of situation that maybe FEMA or the [NYC Office of Emergency Management] would go straight in and look at the hospitals that are closed, grid out the patients, look at the potential services in a reasonable surrounding area, and put out suggestions based on that,” said Mike McCarry, head of perioperative services for Mt. Sinai Medical Center. “Maybe that’s happening, but if it is, it isn’t visible.”

Several of the hospitals taking in Sandy evacuees initially reported losing millions of dollars – with much of the shortfall the result of taking in Medicaid and uninsured patients from Bellevue and, in some cases, displaced nursing home residents.

But in the months ahead, those hospitals that take on NYU patients needing high-end inpatient procedures are likely to see a temporary surge in profits – and possibly win new long-term patients. And they could see millions of dollars a month they would not get, if NYU were open.

This story is part of a reporting partnership that includes WNYC, NPR and Kaiser Health News.

This article was reprinted from kaiserhealthnews.org with permission from the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. Kaiser Health News, an editorially independent news service, is a program of the Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonpartisan health care policy research organization unaffiliated with Kaiser Permanente.

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RedCross App

Red Cross releases free First Aid app for iPhone and Android

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The American Red Cross has created a free “First Aid” app that provides instant access to the information you need to know to handle the most common first aid emergencies.

“With videos, interactive quizzes and simple step-by-step advice it’s never been easier to know first aid,” says the Red Cross.

Features:

  • Picture of the Red Cross First Aid app for burn treatmentSimple step-by-step instructions guide you through everyday first aid scenarios.
  • Fully integrated with 911 so you can call EMS from the app at any time.
  • Videos and animations make learning first aid fun and easy.
  • Safety tips for everything, from severe winter weather to hurricanes, earthquakes and tornadoes help you prepare for emergencies.
  • Preloaded content means you have instant access to all safety information at anytime, even without reception or an Internet connection.
  • Interactive quizzes allow you to earn badges that you can share with your friends and show off your lifesaving knowledge.

The app is available for both iPhone and Android devices.

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MakeIt

Disaster preparation expo at Northgate this Saturday

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Catastrophes can happen at any time. Preparing for three days will help you make it through many of the disasters you’ll face in the Puget Sound region—including major storms and even small earthquakes.

However, to make it through a major catastrophe—like Hurricane Katrina or the earthquake and tsunami in Japan—you’ll need to be prepared for longer—at least 7 to 10 days.

Local agencies across Puget Sound are teaming up to share information and encourage residents to prepare for catastrophic events with a regional campaign: What to do to make it through.

You know you need an emer­gency pre­pared­ness plan; it is on your to-do list.

But where do you start?

How do you talk to your chil­dren about the pos­si­bil­ity of dis­as­ter and how it will affect your fam­ily?

Is your busi­ness pre­pared?

To learn answers to these questions, go to  North­gate Mall on Sat­ur­day, June 9th for the What If Expo.

At the Expo you’ll be able to:

  • Attend edu­ca­tional and fam­ily friendly seminars
  • Meet experts in emer­gency planning
  • Pur­chase what you need to help sur­vive an emergency

WHEN:

Sat­ur­day, June 9th, 10am – 5pm

WHERE:

North­gate Mall | North Court

401 NE North­gate Way

Seat­tle, WA 98125

To learn more:

 

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PHRC thumb

Public Health Reserve Corps looking for volunteers to serve south King County

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The King County Public Health Reserve Corps is holding information session on June 6 for people interested in volunteering in the event of a public health emergency in south King County.

PHRC volunteers assisting with the set-up of a flu-vaccine clinic in Des Moines in 2010.

The PHRC currently has more than 300 volunteers countywide but is actively seeking additional volunteers from south King County.

Recently, PHRC volunteers helped provide medical support in a Red Cross shelter in Federal Way during this year’s winter storms, staffed a flu shot clinic in Tukwila, and are currently helping the fight the county’s whooping cough epidemic.

Volunteers do not need a medical background to join the PHRC.

To learn more about the PHRC:

  • Go to an information session on Wednesday, June 6 at 6 p.m. at the Kent Senior Activity Center (600 E. Smith St., Kent)
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Sign for an emergency room.

ERs demanding payment upfront from patients with routine problems

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Sign for an emergency room.By Phil Galewitz
KHN Staff Writer

This story was produced in collaboration with wapo

Next time you go to an emergency room, be prepared for this: If your problem isn’t urgent, you may have to pay upfront.

Last year, about 80,000 emergency-room patients at hospitals owned by HCA, the nation’s largest for-profit hospital chain, left without treatment after being told they would have to first pay $150 because they did not have a true emergency.

Led by the Nashville-based HCA, a growing number of hospitals have implemented the pay-first policy in an effort to divert patients with routine illnesses from the ER after they undergo a federally required screening.

At least half of all hospitals nationwide now charge upfront ER fees, said Rick Gundling, vice president of the Healthcare Financial Management Association, which represents health-care finance executives.

“It has been a successful part of helping to reduce crowding in emergency rooms and to encourage appropriate use of scarce resources,” HCA spokesman Ed Fishbough said.

But emergency-room doctors and patient advocates blast the policy as potentially harmful to patients, and they say those with mild illnesses such as sore throats and ear infections do little to clog ERs and do not require CT scans or other pricey technologies.

Kim Bailey, research director for the consumer group Families USA, said the tactic lets hospitals turn away uninsured patients who often fail to pay their bills and are a drag on profits. While the uninsured pay upfront fees as high as $350, depending on the hospital, those with insurance pay their normal co-payment and deductible upfront.

“This is certainly a concern to us,” Bailey said.

‘A Real Problem’

Physicians worry that sick people will forgo treatment. There is no data on how many who leave the ER without treatment follow up with visits to doctors’ offices or clinics.

“This is a real problem,” said Dr. David Seaberg, president of the American College of Emergency Physicians, who estimated that 2 to 7 percent of patients screened in ERs and found not to have serious problems are admitted to hospitals within 24 hours.

A 2010 study found that 27 percent of those visiting ERs could be treated more cost-effectively at doctors’ offices or clinics.

“After you’ve done the medical screening, it makes little sense to not go ahead and write a patient a prescription,” said Dr. Michael Zappa, a Boca Raton, Fla., hospital consultant and former president of the Florida College of Emergency Physicians.

Patient advocates say the strategy could discourage patients from going to the ER for true emergencies.

“It seems the point of the policy is to put a financial barrier between the patient and care,” said Anthony Wright, executive director of Health Access California, a consumer advocacy group.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that about 8 percent of ER visits are for non-urgent problems that could be treated less expensively in a doctor’s office or clinic; others put the number of non-emergency visits much higher. A 2010 Health Affairs study found that 27 percent of those visiting ERs could be treated more cost-effectively at doctors’ offices or clinics.

Reducing Bad Debt

Washington state cut Medicaid reimbursements for those visiting ERs for specified non-urgent conditions, such as sore throats or warts.

Hospital officials say the upfront payments are a response to mounting bad debt caused by the surge in uninsured and underinsured patients and to reduced reimbursements by some private and government insurers for patients who use the ER for routine care.

In the past year, for instance, Iowa, Tennessee and Washington state reduced or eliminated Medicaid reimbursements for those visiting ERs for specified non-urgent conditions, such as sore throats or warts.

In an annual report filed last year with the Securities and Exchange Commission, HCA officials wrote that “we are taking proactive measures to reduce our provision for doubtful accounts by, among other things, screening all patients, including the uninsured, through our emergency screening protocol, to determine the appropriate care setting in light of their condition, while reducing the potential for bad debt.”

HCA says it complies with federal requirements to screen and stabilize anyone with an emergency. Of more than 6 million ER visits to HCA hospitals last year, 314,000, or about 5 percent, were determined not to be emergencies, Fishbough said. About 230,000 of those patients paid and remained in the emergency room for treatment. The other 80,000 or so left.

The HCA payment policy excludes children 5 and younger, pregnant women and those 65 and older.

“This helps ensure that the sickest patients get treated quickly and those who do not have an emergency have access to more efficient, less costly care settings,” Fishbough said.

HCA officials declined to say which of its hospitals use the practice, but the company owns more than 160 hospitals in 20 states, including Virginia, California, Alaska, Georgia, Missouri, Kentucky, Idaho and South Carolina.

Following HCA’s lead

Other large chains that have followed HCA’s example include Naples, Fla.-based Health Management Associates and Franklin, Tenn.-based Community Health Systems.

“These policies are beneficial because they help patients understand their financial responsibilities and make informed decisions about where to utilize services,” said Tomi Galin, a spokeswoman for Community Health Systems. “These practices help reduce costs for both the patient and the hospital.”

John Merriweather, vice president at Health Management Associates, said the 66-hospital system has seen a decline in wait times since it implemented upfront payments.

“We think this is appropriate, given that some people use the ER in a way it was not intended: as a source for routine care,” he said.

The upfront payments for non-urgent ER visits are also used by nonprofit hospitals.

In May, Halifax Health in Daytona Beach, Fla., began asking adult patients to pay their co-payment or $350 before treatment for a non-emergency in its ER, spokesman Byron Cogdell said. Like other hospitals, Halifax applies that fee to the patient’s bill.

Paying To Get Prescriptions

“More people now know our ER is not a walk-in clinic or a primary care office.”

In December, Skaggs Regional Medical Center in Branson, Mo., began asking ER patients to pay $40 or their insurance co-payment before receiving a prescription.

“If they don’t pay . . . they won’t be given their prescription,” hospital spokeswoman Michelle Leroux said.

The strategy is designed to help the hospital deal with spiraling, unpaid ER bills. About a third of the 120 patients treated daily in the hospital’s ER are uninsured. The change was implemented after the ER reported $1.3 million in bad debt for August.

“This amount of bad debt is unsustainable for our operation,” Skaggs chief executive William Mahoney said.

Midland Memorial Hospital in Midland, Tex., implemented a $150 upfront ER fee in 2009 as part of a cost control effort. In 2008 the nonprofit hospital lost $14 million, partly because of millions of dollars in unpaid bills from ER patients.

Since the change, the 320-bed hospital has seen a 10 percent drop in people visiting the ER with non-emergencies and a big drop in bad debt, said Stephen Bowerman, Midland’s chief financial officer.

In conjunction with the new ER policy, Midland set up a 24-hour telephone nurse triage system so people in the community can call a nurse to help decide whether to go to the ER or a nearby clinic.

Bowerman said the policy is helping to change behavior. He estimated that about 75 percent of patients with non-emergencies left the facility instead of paying the upfront fee.

“More people now know our ER is not a walk-in clinic or a primary care office,” he said.

We want to hear from you: Contact Kaiser Health News

This article was reprinted from kaiserhealthnews.org with permission from the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. Kaiser Health News, an editorially independent news service, is a program of the Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonpartisan health care policy research organization unaffiliated with Kaiser Permanente.

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Uncooked turkey in a pot

Keeping food safe during power outages

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During power outages, food can go bad. Even food that smells and tastes fine can harbor bacteria that can make you and your family ill. To help you avoid such food-borne illnesses, the Washington State Department of Health has prepared the following food-safety tips:

Uncooked turkey in a pot

Spoiled food can make you sick; handle, store food safely when power is out

Keep cold food cold to prevent bacteria from growing: if in doubt, throw it out

When the power is out it’s important to protect your food supply. Keeping foods cold or making sure they’re fully cooked can protect you from foodborne illness. That can be difficult without power.

If you think power might be out for a long time, use food that can spoil fast before food that keeps longer. It’s most important to keep meat, seafood, and dairy products cold.

Refrigerator doors should be kept closed as much as possible to keep cold air inside. Freezers that are part of a refrigerator-freezer combination will keep food frozen for up to a day.

A free-standing chest or upright freezer will keep food frozen solid for two days if it is fully loaded. The more it is opened, the quicker it will thaw.

An ice chest packed with ice or snow is a good temporary solution. However, storing food outside is not recommended. Outside temperatures change often and the sun can thaw frozen foods or warm cold foods so that bacteria can grow. Animals can also contaminate food left outside.

“If in doubt, throw it out.” 

Bags of ice or block ice from the store can be placed in the refrigerator to keep food cold. Also, many items that people often keep in their refrigerator can temporarily be stored on a countertop or in a cool place like a garage. Some examples include fresh uncut fruits and vegetables, butter and margarine, ketchup, mustard, pickles, relish and similar condiments.

When it comes to food safety, the general rule is, “If in doubt, throw it out.” Never taste suspicious food. It may look and smell fine, but bacteria that cause foodborne illness may be present and could make you sick.

If food is cold to the touch, and you know it has not been above 45 degrees F for more than an hour or two, it’s probably safe to keep, use, or refreeze. Throw away all meat, seafood, dairy products, or cooked foods that don’t feel cold to the touch. Even under proper refrigeration, many raw foods should be kept only three or four days before they are cooked, frozen, or thrown away.

It is important to be very careful when trying to cook during a power outage. NEVER USE A CAMPING STOVE OR BARBEQUE INDOORS. They put off carbon monoxide, a poisonous gas that can’t be seen or smelled. It can kill a person in minutes.

To learn more:

  • The state Department of Health has several fact sheets on staying safe in bad weather (www.doh.wa.gov/Topics/weather.htm). They’re available in multiple languages.
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An illustration of a man walking on a windy day from the medieval book Tacuinum Sanitatis

Prepare for wind and rain

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An illustration of a man walking on a windy day from the medieval book Tacuinum SanitatisStrong, damaging winds will buffet the Puget Sound Region tonight through midday Tuesday, the National Weather Service warns.

Winds are expected to be 15 to 30 mph, gusting to 45 mph.

In addition, with the winds will come heavy precipitation tonight and Tuesday with a second weather system expected to bring more rain Tuesday night and Wednesday, the Weather Service said.

The heavy rain may cause some minor flooding in the most “flood-prone rivers,” the Weather Service said.

Rivers facing the greatest threat for flooding include the:

  • Newaukum
  • Chehalis
  • Puyallup, near Orting
  • Snoqualmie
  • Stillaguamish

Be Prepared for Winter Storms: Tips from the Seattle Red Cross

Wind Storms

  • Move or secure lawn furniture, outdoor decorations or ornaments, trash cans, hanging plants and anything else that can be picked up by wind and become a projectile.
  • During the storm, draw blinds and shades over windows.If windows break due to objects blown by the wind, the shades will prevent glass from shattering into your home.
  • Wind storms may lead to power outages. Prepare accordingly:
  • Assemble essential supplies, including a flashlight, batteries, portable radio, at least one gallon of water per person per day and a small supply of food. For more information about building or purchasing a disaster kit, visit www.seattleredcross.org.
  • Do not run a generator inside a home or garage. If you use a generator, connect the equipment you want to power directly to the outlets on the generator. Do not connect a generator to a home’s electrical system.
  • Never use charcoal or gas grills as an indoor heating or cooking source.
  • Only use a flashlight for emergency lighting. Due to the extreme risk of fire, do not use candles during a power outage.
  • Turn off electrical equipment you were using when the power went out. Leave one light on so you know when the power comes back on.
  • Keep refrigerator and freezer doors closed as much as possible. First use perishable food from the refrigerator. An unopened refrigerator will keep foods cold for about 4 hours.

Floods

  • Be prepared to evacuate at a moment’s notice. When a flood or flash flood warning is issued for your area, head for higher ground and stay there.
  • Eighty-percent of people who die as a result of flooding are in vehicles. If you come upon a barricade, turn around and go another way. If you come upon flood waters, do not drive through them; the road could be washed out underneath. If you are caught on a flooded road and waters are rising rapidly around you, get out of the car quickly and move to higher ground. Most cars can be swept away by less than two feet of moving water.
  • If you are driving and your car stalls, abandon your vehicle and head to higher ground.
  • Stay away from floodwaters. If you come upon a flowing stream where water is above your ankles, stop, turn around and go another way. Six inches of swiftly moving water can sweep you off of your feet.
  • Be aware of flood hazards. Floods can roll boulders, tear out trees, destroy buildings and bridges, and scour out new channels. Flood waters can reach heights of 10 to 20 feet and often carry a deadly cargo of debris. Flood-producing rains can also trigger catastrophic debris slides.

For more safety tips and information on flooding please visit www.seattleredcross.org or www.redcrosswashington.org.

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Get your mobile and other high-tech gear ready for emergencies

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Get Tech Ready

From FEMA – the Federal Emergency Management Agency

According to The American Red Cross, the internet – including online news sites and social media platforms – is the third most popular way for Americans to gather emergency information and let their loved ones know they are safe.

Through the use of everyday technology, individuals, families, responders, and organizations can successfully prepare for, adapt to and recover from disruptions brought on by emergencies and/or disasters.

With effective planning, it is possible to take advantage of technology before, during and after a crisis to communicate with loved ones and manage your financial affairs.

Stay Connected

  • Keep your contacts updated across all of your channels, including phone, email and social media. This will make it easy to reach out to the right people quickly to get information and supply updates. Consider creating a group list serve of your top contacts.
  • Learn how to send updates via text and internet from your mobile phone to your contacts and social channels in case voice communications are not available. Text messages and the internet often have the ability to work in the event of a phone service disruption.
  • Keep extra batteries for your phone in a safe place or purchase a solar-powered or hand crank charger. These chargers are good emergency tools to keep your laptop and other small electronics working in the event of a power outage. If you own a car, purchase a car phone charger because you can charge your phone if you lose power at your home.
  • Program “In Case of Emergency” (ICE) contacts into your cell phone so emergency personnel can contact those people for you if you are unable to use your phone. Let your ICE contacts know that they are programmed into your phone and inform them of any medical issues or other special needs you may have.
  • If you have a traditional landline (non-broadband or VOIP) phone, keep at least one non-cordless phone in your home because it will work even if you lose power.
  • If you are evacuated and have call-forwarding on your home phone, forward your home phone number to your cell phone number.
  • If you do not have a cell phone, keep a prepaid phone card to use if needed during or after a disaster.
  • Prepare a family contact sheet. This should include at least one out-of-town contact that may be better able to reach family members in an emergency.
  • Have a battery-powered or hand-cranked radio or television available (with spare batteries).

The following are additional tips when making phone calls and using your smartphone during or after a disaster:

  • Keep all phone calls brief. If you need to use a phone, try to convey only vital information to emergency personnel and/or family.
  • If you are unsuccessful in completing a call using your cell phone, wait ten seconds before redialing to help reduce network congestion.
  • Conserve your cell phone battery by reducing the brightness of your screen, placing your phone in airplane mode, and closing apps you are not using that draw power, unless you need to use the phone.
  • If you lose power, you can charge your cell phone in your car. Just be sure your car is in a well-ventilated place (remove it from the garage) and do not go to your car until any danger has passed. You can also listen to your car radio for important news alerts.
  • If you do not have a hands-free device in your car, stop driving or pull over to the side of the road before making a call. Do not text on a cell phone, talk, or “tweet” without a hands free device while driving.
  • Immediately following a disaster, resist using your mobile device to watch streaming videos, download music or videos, or play video games, all of which can add to network congestion. Limiting use of these services can help potentially life-saving emergency calls get through to 9-1-1.
  • For non-emergency communications, use text messaging, e-mail, or social media instead of making voice calls on your cell phone to avoid tying up voice networks. Data-based services like texts and emails are less likely to experience network congestion. You can also use social media to post your status to let family and friends know you are okay. In addition to Facebook and Twitter, you can use resources such as the American Red Cross’s Safe and Well program.

Get Organized

Store your important documents such as personal and financial records in a password-protected area in the Cloud or a secure flash or jump drive that you can keep readily available. This flash drive can be kept on a key ring so it can be accessed from any computer, anytime, anywhere. Remember important documents, such as:

  • Personal and property insurance
  • Identification: Driver’s License/Passport (for family members, as well)
  • Banking information
  • Don’t forget your Pets!
  • Store your pet’s veterinary medical records documents online.
  • Consider an information digital implant.
  • Keep a current photo of your pet in your online kit to aid in identification if you are separated.

Your family may not be together when disaster strikes, so it is important to plan in advance. Create an Emergency Information Document or Family Communications Plan to record how you will contact one another; how you will get back together; and what you will do in different situations.

  • Make sure to share this document with family members, friends and co-workers who will also need to access it in an emergency or crisis.
  • When handling personal and sensitive information always keep your data private and share it only with those who will need access in case of emergency.

Sign up for Direct Deposit and electronic banking through your financial institution so you can access your payroll funds and make electronic payments regardless of location. Federal benefit recipients can sign up by calling (800) 333-1795 or at www.GoDirect.org.

Emergency Resources

Include these sites in your Emergency Information Document to ensure that you can quickly access them from any computer or smart phone.

  • Download the FEMA App to access disaster preparedness tips, build your personal emergency kit, and look for open Disaster Recovery Centers along with open shelters (if you’re a disaster survivor). Also, stay informed with the FEMA blog.
  • Local emergency management officials often have notification systems. Opt-In to a distribution for your community. To find out if your community offers such services, contact your local office of Emergency Management.
  • Important: In an emergency, you still need to call 9-1-1 for help. Remember that you cannot currently text 9-1-1. If you are not experiencing an emergency, do not call 9-1-1. If your area offers 3-1-1 service or another information system, call that number for non-emergencies.

More Information

For information on how web users increasingly rely on social media in disasters, please visit the Red Cross.

Disclaimer: Ready.gov/tech was created in cooperation with Google Crisis Response and the American Red Cross. If you have other tips to add, please contact us at Ready@FEMA.gov. FEMA does not endorse any non-Federal government organizations, products, or services.

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Disaster Readiness Fair at Evergreen Hospital – Sat. 24th

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Evergreen Hospital in Kirkland will hold its annual Disaster Readiness Fair this Saturday, Sept. 24th from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m..

The event includes presentations, workshops and activities filled with information and key resources for community members who want to prepare their families for a range of disasters, whether it’s heavy snowfall, an earthquake or a hazardous chemical spill.

Admission and parking is free.

Presentations include:

Talking to Kids about Disasters

Get helpful advice on how and when to talk to children about disasters and staying safe. Presenters include Kathryn Koelemay, MD, MPH Medical Epidemiologist Public Health – Seattle & King County and Dr. Doug Dicharry, a child and adolescent psychologist.

Safe Water Storage Tips

Experts from the Northshore Utility District will address crucial water storage tips, including how much to store, what kind of containers to use and where to store it.

Preparing Pets and Livestock for Disasters

Washington State Animal Rescue Team will share information on preparing pets and livestock for disasters, as well as interesting stories from their recent deployments around the country.

Onsite activities include:

  • Build your own personal emergency kit with the help of Redmond business Prepare Smart
  • Disaster response professionals from your community who will provide information on resources that are available to you and your family
  • Special preparedness tips for seniors, children, the disabled, pets and livestock
  • Tours of the Emergency Department and victim decontamination demonstrations
  • Fire and emergency vehicles up close with demonstrations showing what they can do
  • Puget Sound Energy High Voltage Demonstration
  • Coast Guard appearance
  • Special hazmat response vehicle from the National Guard

When:

Saturday, Sept. 24

9 a.m.- 2 p.m.

Where:

Evergreen Hospital
12040 NE 128th Street
Kirkland 98034

To learn more:

  • Visit the even webpage or call call the Evergreen Healthline at 425.899.3000
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Low-flying helicopter will start mapping local radiation levels in Puget Sound next week

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A helicopter will begin flying low over the Puget Sound region starting next week to measure the background radiation levels, the Washington State Department of Health has announced.

Photo of the Bell Helicopter that will perform the aerial survey.

The flyovers will start in Seattle and Bellevue before moving to other areas of King and Pierce Counties, including Tacoma.

During the Puget Sound flyovers, the helicopter will be based at Boeing Air Field and will make daily flights between July 11 and 28.

The helicopter will fly a grid pattern at an altitude of about 300 feet.

The measurements will be used to determine what normal radiation levels are various locations. The data will provide a baseline that can be used for comparison should there ever be a nuclear accident, the Department of Health said.

After the recent nuclear reactor accident in Fukushima, Japan, Japanese officials measured radiation levels in the surrounding area, but could not tell how elevated they were because they had no pre-accident measurements for comparison.

State radiation experts expect to find natural radioactivity and material produced by licensed radioactive material users such as hospitals, the Department of Health said.

After review, the results of the survey will be available to the public, the Department of Health said, though some information may be withheld for national security reasons. If levels of radioactivity are high enough to pose any health concern, the source will be investigated.

Department of Energy’s Remote Sensing Laboratory Aerial Measurement System will conduct the flyover. The project, which the Washington State Department of Health is overseeing, has been in planning since 2009 and is funded by a grant from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

To learn more:

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What if? EXPO: Emergency Preparedness Event

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Learn about emergency preparedness

You know you need an emergency preparedness plan; it is on your to-do list.

But where do you start?

How do you talk to your children about the possibility of disaster and how it will affect your family?

Is you business prepared? Join Seattle Red Cross, Seattle Children’s, FEMA and other exhibitors at Northgate Mall on Saturday, July 9th for the What If Expo and take that first step!

  • Attend educational and family friendly seminars
  • Get great freebies and win prizes
  • Experience the Big Shaker, earthquake simulator
  • Meet experts in emergency planning

WHEN:

Saturday, July 9th, 10am-5pm

WHERE:

NORTHGATE MALL, North Court
401 NE Northgate Way
Seattle, WA 98125

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