At 1:30 am on January 24, 2016, most of southern Alaska was jolted awake by a massive 7.1 earthquake. This was the biggest shake we’ve felt since the Big One in 1964.
Most people were able to find safety and thankfully there were no injuries reported. But, for many seniors with limited mobility, finding safety wasn’t an option – they just got lucky this time.
If someone you love has limited mobility and you want to keep them safe during the next earthquake, here are a few things you can do to prepare.
If there’s any reason that your loved one cannot get out of bed or their wheelchair on their own, then you need to make sure that the area they are in is safe.
- Secure special equipment such as phones and medical supplies to the wall with the proper hardware.
- Tanks of gas such as oxygen should be secured to the wall with two straps and the area around them should remain clear. They can become deadly if punctured and the pressure is released.
- Tall furniture should be secured to the wall so it cannot fall over.
- Tighten loose ceiling fixtures and make sure beds and chairs are not placed beneath them.
- Have an emergency kit near your loved one with a small supply of medications, eyeglasses, contact information, water, a flashlight, a whistle, and their basic information such as name, allergies, medical issues, and emergency contacts.
- Add security lights around the room. They plug into the wall, run on batteries, and will turn on if the electricity goes out.
- Invest in a medical alert system such as Lifeline.
- If you have shelves mounted to your wall make sure they are secured with long screws in studs or you’re using drywall screws with the proper weight rating.
- Heavy pictures and mirrors should be hung on walls away from beds or common sitting areas.
- If your loved one has some mobility, help them to identify nearby safe places to use as cover such as a nearby desk. Just be aware that if they have trouble getting around when the earth isn’t moving then they’ll be extremely challenged during an earthquake.
The greatest risk during an earthquake is from falling objects. Structures in Alaska are now built to stringent codes, so there’s not as much risk that the house will collapse around you. A lamp falling on your head could knock you out and the broken pieces could cut you though. After the initial shaking is over then you can move to a more stable place.
In order to prevent falling during an earthquake these are the precautions that should be taken.
- For loved ones that cannot move on their own, they will be safe where they are as long as you’ve properly prepared the area. Attempting to move is actually more dangerous for them.
- For those who are wheel chair bound, moving to the center of a room, away from things that may fall and covering their head with their arms is the best course of action.
- If someone is mobile with the use of a cane or walker, then sitting on the floor or in a chair is the safest action to take.
As a care giver, your first instinct may be to run to the rescue of the person you love. But, as you’ve probably heard on every flight you’ve taken – place your own mask on before helping those around you. You will be most needed after the earthquake is over. If you are injured from a fall then you can’t help anyone else. Take cover immediately and stay there until the shaking subsides.
When the shaking stops you will need to assess the situation carefully. A simple rule to follow while assessing the situation is: If you are in immediate danger where you are, then evacuate. If you are safe, then stay where you are. Moving people with disabilities can be dangerous, especially if there are stairs involved so if it’s safe to remain where you then you should always do so.
- If you are trapped, bang on walls and pipes or use your emergency whistle.
- If the house is on fire or has suffered structural damage, then you will need to evacuate.
- People with disabilities should be evacuated last. This is the safest course because it reduces the risk that they’ll be injured in the rush to get outside. To help someone with limited mobility there are a few things to keep in mind.
- It takes two people to move someone in a wheel chair, so grab some help and give them clear directions on how to help you.
- Before assisting someone you’re not familiar with, ask the person if they need help and how you can provide it to them. Sometimes moving people in a certain way can cause them harm.
- Remember to bring wheelchairs, walkers and canes if it’s at all possible because your loved one can’t get around without them and they aren’t easy to replace.
- Inspect utilities for any damage and turn them off at the main source if needed. Report gas leaks or other damage to the utility company immediately.
- We know that you love your family and will always worry about them, but if you are well prepared, you can rest assured that they’ll be safe in an earthquake.
We hope that you never need to use more than the preparations we’ve given you. But Alaska is an unpredictable place. Knowing what to do in an emergency can help to reduce panic reactions and feelings of stress.
We are always here for you if you ever need assistance caring for your aging loved ones. Don’t hesitate to call if there’s something you need a little help with.
For more information on preparing for a natural disaster the Ready site has all the answers.