Thursday, November 1, 2007

Disaster Preparedness, 3

And then the earth shook! Just after I inserted my flower Tuessday night a 5.6 earthquake rocked our area. Not at the epicenter--for which I am thankful--nonetheless it felt real and reminiscent of Loma Prieta. Earthquakes are scary and unexpected, harder to plan for than hurricanes, harder to prevent than firestorms.

They remind us that we are not in charge. God holds us in His hands. I am particularly aware of this, since the thing that I fear most about an earthquake is walking around on my crutches as I do every day. Whil.e most people see me as being in a wheelchair, the fact is that I frequently stand up and move on my crutches through my hosue. I could not care for myself if I did not. I am no longer confident ehought to simply walk around the house for exercise though, because I am so scared of being knocked off my feet by a quake.

What is merely conversation material for most people could be a serious disaster for me. While I check the check-lists of preparedness for the "big one" I need to remind friends that even a small one could land me in the hospital, or worse, nursing home. Check on me, please. I value independent living, but am not so independent that I don't need you.

So the checklist for a disabled person has got to include a support system that will designate someone who calls, and who then stops over if there is no answer. Someone has to have an emergency key too, to be able to enter to offer help. These things are never included in the standard checklists.

Perhaps a checklist for independent living would be a useful addendum in emergency preparedness kits and sites. There are many things that neighbors can do--but they need to be alerted and educated in order to do so. Only one friend called on Tuesday night to ask if I was all right. Another called the next day and then she said, "I should have called sooner." Look around you and see who in your neighborhood is a fragile, elderly or disabled person who might need a check-in after an earthquake, even a little one. Be there for that person.

Adopt a neighbor so that if you were to be turning off your own gas and electricity you would help that neighbor at the same time. Little things matter. Establish a relationship of kindness by bringing in the garbage can that has been left out, picking up the junk litter of free fliers and newsletters, mowing the grass or raking the leaves (especially if they are falling from your own tree). Then when the disaster strikes your neighbor will be comfortable with your offer of aid and you will remember to help. Who knows you may save life. Even more importantly, you may make a friend.

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