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Preparing for Natural Disasters

With hurricane season in full swing, the time is right for many people to prepare for possible emergency and disaster situations. No one wants to be caught off-guard if the power is out for days at a time, telephones and other communications fail, or damage to a home requires residents to flee to nearby family, friends or even shelters.

See Also: 5 ways to stay prepared for the worst — and help a friend or neighbor

The elderly and the disabled are especially vulnerable – and not just to hurricanes or weather emergencies. For them, many events, at almost any time, cause the same problems if they are not prepared.

A house fire, factory emissions, even something personal – like a slip and fall – can mean sudden response is required. And for them, mobility and speed may be problematic. Special equipment may require care – wheelchairs, oxygen tanks, insulin supplies, etc. have to be taken into consideration, as well as medications or even special foods.

 To help, AARP Virgin Islands is working with a coalition of community groups – churches, government agencies, and other, non-profit entities – to bring the Salvation Army’s “Preparing Together” program first to St. Croix and then to the other Virgin Islands.

The program matches capable volunteers with elderly and disabled participants (called “buddies”) to create a personalized safety plan for emergency situations.

The goal of the coalition is to help prepare community service organizations territory-wide to better serve others during major disasters as a trained disaster partner. This program gives attention to two segments of the community – senior citizens and people with disabilities who often are at risk during major disasters.
Together with the Salvation Army, AARP held a Train-the-Trainer Workshop on June 3 at the UVI Great Hall on St. Croix. This training is part of a new collaborative initiative including VOAD, the Salvation Army and various other groups and agencies to implement the Salvation Army’s Preparing Together program.

Representatives of local organizations and agencies such as the American Red Cross of the VI, Interfaith Coalition, Disability Rights Center, ADA, Department of Human Services and the Department of Health made up part of those who attended and participated in the training. Cyrille Singleton, AARP Project Coordinator, facilitated the session.

Michael Orfitelli, Territorial Coordinator of The Salvation Army, presented the Preparing Together Disaster Preparedness Starter Kit. This kit includes a Trainer and Volunteer Guide and a Planning Tool. The training focused on allowing the agency participants to understand how to set up a class for training; provided instructions for exercise and group formations; and highlighted key points for trainers.

A key part of the program is the Preparing Together Planning Tool (PTPT) - a booklet with a magnet on the back so it can be placed on a refrigerator. The PTPT lists important personal information including the medications that are taken by the participant as well as what medications they may be allergic to. In the event of an emergency, it’s possible to “grab and go” with the PTPT – making the PTPT a valuable resource for any visit to a hospital or doctor’s office as well as in an emergency.

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