As we observe National Disaster Preparedness Month, we asked Joe Don Cavendar about his experiences…
I wasn’t aware of the Medical Reserve Corps (MRC) until Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast in August 2005. Many evacuees were temporarily relocated to my hometown of Dallas and were housed in the Convention Center. A call for help was issued and I responded along with many of my colleagues because we all wanted to help. Just hours removed from New Orleans and evacuated in a crisis situation, many evacuees needed basic primary care such as inhaler prescriptions. The evacuees were so appreciative of the help we gave them. This rewarding experience led to my becoming more involved with the MRC.
The MRC offers training opportunities on a regular basis throughout the year. Since Katrina, volunteers with the MRC have been called upon to help in many situations. Most recently, MRC volunteers monitored travelers returning from areas of West Africa known for Ebola activity for fever and other symptoms as a potential public health threat.
For APRNs and the public alike, I would offer that the key to disaster preparedness is to have a drill – it can be a table top exercise or discussion. Think about all the things you would need to sustain your patients/practice, your family, and/or yourself in the short term (up to 72 hours), for a week or for a month. Include details about food, water, communication, warmth/shelter, medications and medically necessary devices. If you create scenarios and begin to put yourself in that imaginary situation, you will identify all sorts of things that you may not have previously considered. The next step is to act. Create job action sheets – it’s much easier to read and follow step-by-step, pre-thought plans than it is to work “on the fly” in a crisis. Prepare disaster packs that have the essentials you identified – including medications. With your family, a good plan includes role playing (a drill), actually going to the designate place of refuge/shelter within your home (such as in a tornado) and following the path to an escape route to a designated safe place should you become separated.