Search This Blog

Thursday, May 4, 2017

City of Phoenix engages community partners in disaster preparedness

On May 3, 2017, the City of Phoenix Office of Homeland Security & Emergency Management led a preparedness exercise in partnership with organizations, including the American Red Cross, police and fire departments, and other government agencies.  Arizona Department of Emergency and Military Affairs team members participated as “actors” playing the role of citizens evacuated from their homes to a shelter due to a mass power outage caused by a microburst during a sizzling summer.

We arrived at the shelter at the Paradise Valley Community Center and immediately took on the role of evacuees.  We were greeted and registered.  The registration process is critical to understanding each citizen’s needs and providing information to promote comfort and confidence.
The registration form, completed with an American Red Cross team member, captures evacuee information such as name and address, family members, and medical needs.  In my case, I required a prescription medication but I had forgotten to bring it.  Immediately after registration, the team member escorted me to the medical team, introduced me and explained my situation to them.  This personal “hand-off” between the American Red Cross team members is critical to helping the evacuee feel cared for and less anxious.  The nurses captured more details, assuring me that my medical information would not be shared with anyone unnecessarily.  Before I left  the nurses, I knew exactly how and when we were going to get my medication. 

After registration, each evacuee was given a meal ticket (water and snacks were readily available), blankets and a pillow, and a personal care package, which includes items such as a toothbrush, comb, shampoo and disposable shaver . 

Each evacuee was then taken to the sleeping area to choose a cot.  Cots can be moved, and families with youngsters tended to put their cots around the children to help them feel safe. 

For some, the cots were not practical due to physical limitations.  The American Red Cross had cots to accommodate these individuals.  Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) members were available throughout the shelter to help people with any needs, any time.

What was most extraordinary was watching how individuals from all participating organizations handled chaos.  Some of the actors were distraught evacuees who were angry, frustrated, agitated and/or confused.  In my case, I was an adult daughter who had been separated from her elderly mother with Alzheimer’s in the evacuation process.  Another person was agitated because she was allergic to dogs, and a service dog was near her chosen cot.  Still another person let out a blood-curdling scream in the cafeteria because she was told that another evacuee’s pet tarantula was loose in the shelter.  In every case, team members responded immediately, and one person stayed with the evacuee until the situation was resolved while others sought out the solution. The evacuee was informed  comforted.  Team members remained composed and were able to keep other evacuees calm.

What did I learn? 
·         Individual preparedness is essential.  Make a list of what you and your family would require if you had to leave your home for several days, such as medications or medical equipment. Information on how to create a Family Communication Plan and how to build an emergency supplies kit is available on AzEIN

·         Our city has our backs and needs you.  The City of Phoenix effectively engages with the organizations and government agencies that are critical to optimizing the support offered to citizens in the event of a disaster.  However, more help is always needed, and CERT is a great way to get involved.

Blog by Toni Eberhardt

No comments: