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How to prepare for disaster

Safety: Speakers from local hospital share senior-friendly tips on preparing for emergencies

Posted: August 15, 2011 1:55 a.m.
Updated: August 15, 2011 1:57 a.m.

Magdaleno hands out literature at the seminar.

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Emergencies, such as an earthquake or other natural disasters, can be scary for anyone. For seniors, such a scenario can be particularly nerve-racking.

“Seniors are prone to slip, trip and fall. They should try to have everything close by their bed, such as their shoes, and stay in bed, instead of going to the floor, in case of an emergency,” said Antonio Magdaleno, disaster planner and trauma surge coordinator for Henry Mayo Newhall Memorial Hospital. “There’s better protection under blankets and pillows.”

Magdaleno and Terry Stone, a safety officer and emergency preparedness manager for Henry Mayo, spoke at the Santa Clarita Valley Senior Center in Newhall on Wednesday as part of the center’s Health and Wellness series held each Wednesday.

The duo presented senior-friendly safety tips during the free presentation.

“Because medications are so highly regulated now, most seniors are only prescribed a 30-day supply. Seniors should talk to their physicians and request an extra emergency set of medications and rotate the supply so it never expires,” Stone said.

Because of failing eyesight in some of the elderly population, it also pays to be extra careful following an emergency.

“In the kitchen, glass can break and get into food. If you can’t see well, that can be dangerous,” Magdaleno said.

Both stressed the importance of keeping a safe stash of food, including calorie-rich nutrition bars and canned goods, in a designated area.

A Henry Mayo-logoed emergency-survival kit that contained food bars, as well as water, batteries, personal-hygiene products and first-aid essentials, was raffled off at the event, and is available for purchase for $89.95 at (661) 310-0388 .

“Buying these products separately would cost $150,” Stone said.

Stone demonstrated how to chop food bars and add water to make items soft and easy to chew. The food bars in the safety kit are also stored at Henry Mayo in mass quantities in case of an emergency.

“The bars can be softened and used for infant formula, and it’s also safe for diabetics,” Stone said. “The best part is it tastes like a lemon cookie.”

According to Stone, thousands of Santa Clarita Valley residents came to the hospital’s Valencia campus after the 1994 Northridge earthquake, looking for information, medical services or simply a safe place to stay temporarily.

“We have to be prepared for surgery, so we have backup generators and our lights on all the time,” Stone said. “Seniors in particular are looking for safety, since they may not have a generator in their home, and feel more vulnerable. They could also require frequent routine physician appointments, and come here anticipating that.”

Magdaleno and Stone encouraged caregivers to consider the special needs of seniors, and make sure they have the proper plans in place to accommodate them, such as securing any property that could be destroyed or damaged in an emergency.

“There could be an oxygen tank or a motorized bed that’s hard and heavy to wheel out,” Magdaleno said. “Many seniors have pets, too, and need to know what to do.”

To make the planning process easier, home safety emergency plans, sponsored by The Salvation Army, were distributed to the event’s guests. The colorful, easy-to-follow, magnetized guide requires filling out household and emergency contacts, as well as children pets, services and health care providers, so that the information is kept in one central location (such as a refrigerator).

Checklists are provided for home and emergency supplies, and several sections are devoted to first-aid information, such as what to do before, during and after emergencies. The plan includes specific tips for earthquakes, tsunamis, floods, winter storms, tornadoes, lightning, extreme heat, hurricanes and even fallout from chemical and biological agents.

No matter the age, emergency preparedness is crucial, because just about everyone panics. It’s a physiological response
that’s hard to avoid, as Stone illustrated.

“Your body goes into fight-or-flight mode. Oxygen leaves the brain and goes to the limbs, in preparation to run or fight,” she said.

Local emergency contacts are listed on the back of the plan, but one shouldn’t count on public or private agencies to respond quickly to individual calls in the midst of a crisis.

“You really have to plan to be self-sufficient for hours, days or weeks,” Magdaleno said.

For more information on the free home safety emergency plan, contact Antonio Magdaleno at (661) 200-1701 or email magdalenac@henrymayo.com.

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