Uh-Oh the Sky is Falling: Emergency Preparedness for People with Spinal Cord Injury
In this episode of Kessler Institute for Rehabilitation presented “Uh-Oh, The Sky is Falling: Emergency Preparedness for People with Spinal Cord Injury.” The likelihood that you and your family will recover from an emergency tomorrow depends on the planning and preparation done today. 's podcast, Robin Bischoff, nurse manager of the spinal cord injury unit at
Be sure to download the presentation slides which includes emergency preparedness worksheets, lists, tips, and items to build an emergency to go bag.
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Below are excerpts from her talk.
Robin Bischoff: So far in 2019, we've had excessive heat, not just in the United States, but throughout the world. So we know, especially after spinal cord injury, how that can affect our patients. Anybody. We had tons of deaths that weren't spinal cord injured, but our patients have to be educated as to keep themselves cool, and in reverse too. If it's snowing out, to keep themselves warm because if they have an injury of T6 or above, they can't sweat, so they can't regulate their temperature. We also had, so far in 2019, a lot of black- and brown-outs. The patients that use electricity would have to think of an alternative. And then Springfield had a tornado. So hopefully, the sky is never going to fall, but we have to plan because the weather is changing and disasters are happening
Everyone Needs a Plan
RB: Emergencies and disasters strike without warning. We saw pictures of Hurricane Harvey, and that, I think, is the most recent that showed us that our government isn't prepared to help our patients. They try. If you go onto websites, FEMA, they tell you disasters plan-- there's a hundred items on disaster planning for the disabled, but when it comes down to reality, it isn't helping. We need to help our patients prepare with the government of what they're going to need to survive. So this entire lecture is going to be about getting ready and be prepared ahead of time. So everyone needs a plan. We decided to educate our patients after spinal cord injury and decided to do it in three steps. We're starting a new education program. It's going to be more peer directed. So there's a section on going home, so that's the way we're going to introduce it to our patient. At the end of that lecture, we're going to show them some slides and a video, just like you guys, to just start thinking about it. We can't tell you exactly what to do, but to start thinking about what you would do, what's in your area, and just to get the thoughts. The second step is we're going to go into their room and we're going to help them make a plan. You're going to see going forward, there's tons of forms that I have. I haven't decided on really one I like yet. We're trying to make our own, but right now, we give them an option of what forms to fill out, go in the room, and try to sit down and figure out what their plan would be, just to start it. And then the third step is giving them a bag with some supplies they're going to need. If they're using catheters, catheter supplies. I have a blanket in there. I just thought about something inexpensive I can buy. We can add whistles to the bag. But in the bag, there's also more forms on what you need to put in your bag, what you need to survive, and that's coming forward.
Join a Database
RB: I didn't talk about databases. Along with filling out the forms on the plans, there's databases in every state. So New Jersey, I actually found one, and there's also a National 911 Profile Database. So we have to find out where our patients are from and help them register so people know that they need assistance in getting out during an emergency. All our patients go home anyway. We tell them to notify the local authorities to let them know they have mobility issues, but this is in addition too. And then our goal is after we give them the go bag and they're gone a month, give them a phone call, and to see if they know where their bag is and what it's for. Going forward, this is the actual education that our patients receive.
RB: The best place is to stay put. West Orange was a perfect example last year where our students got stuck in the schools. If your house is safe, stay where you are. Next best is go to a friend or go to a family if you can get there. The last option is to go to a shelter. If you feel like you have to go to a shelter, we suggest to our patients that ahead of time, before a disaster happens, go see the shelter. Go tell them what you need so they can prepare for you. Who's going to help you? Make sure there's a form of communication. I don't have an answer for this. If the cell phones aren't working, if the phones aren't working, how are you going to get help? I don't have an answer for it. Maybe somebody else does. Know who you're going to call. Have them look for you if something's happening and you can't get in touch with them. Have them look for you. And don't forget your pets. And what do you need from day to day?
This presentation was hosted by the Northern New Jersey Spinal Cord Injury System, which is supported by a grant from the National Institute on Disability, Independent Living, and Rehabilitation Research, NIDILRR grant number 90SI5026. NIDILRR is a center within the Administration for Community Living, Department of Health and Human Services.