Experts say plan for your health before the water starts to rise
Winnipeg Health Region
Published Wednesday, March 9, 2011
With the possible threat of flooding this spring, health experts in the Winnipeg Health Region are asking you to consider your health needs, particularly if you are in an area at risk for evacuation due to flooding.
"Our health is our most valuable possession. Unfortunately, when people are about to lose their homes and all their possessions in a flood, their health may not be top of mind when its time to evacuate," says Tom McCormack, Director of Disaster Management for the Winnipeg Health Region.
Being proactive about your health needs – or the health needs of those you care about – can help make sure you'll be ready in the event you do need to evacuate. A little preparation can go a long way to making sure you have everything you need and perhaps help reduce some of the stress during what may be a very stressful experience.
Here are questions to consider when considering your health needs (and the health needs of your family) in a flood preparation plan:
- Are my prescriptions up to date? If it's time to have your medication refilled or your medication adjusted, do that sooner rather than later.
- Do I have enough medication? It's recommended that you have at least two weeks worth of medication on hand.
- Do I have an up to date list of the medications you're taking? If not, make one.
- Are my immunizations up to date? You do not need extra vaccinations if you are responding directly to a flood situation. If you are going to be contact with anything that's been contaminated by flood water, make sure your immunizations are up to date, particularly for tetanus.
- Do you know where your immunization record is? Take a peek through your wallet and find it. While you're at it, make sure your Manitoba Health Card is easy to find.
- Do I have an ample supply of asthma inhalers (or refills), diabetic testing devices or insulin? If not, make sure you'll have everything you need for at least a two week period.
- Am I or someone I love receiving special medical care like dialysis or cancer treatment? If so, it's time to chat with your doctor about what the plan is if you need to evacuate.
- Do you or a family have a completed Emergency Response Information Kit (ERIK) on the fridge? If so, be sure to grab it before evacuating.
How could a flood impact the Winnipeg Health Region?
The latest report from the province of Manitoba's Water Stewardship department indicated a high potential for flooding in the Red River Valley and other areas of the province.
The weather over the next two months will determine how high the water could get. In the meantime, the Winnipeg Health Region is working closely with the Province of Manitoba, the City of Winnipeg and other rural health authorities to prepare.
"During the flood situation in 2009 we were able to solidify some of our care plans and execute some flood response activities," says McCormack. "We hope for the best this year, but if the situation arises where people are evacuated from homes, hospitals, or personal care facilities, the region will be able to step up in a concerted effort with government and other agencies to provide the health care services people need."
The Region has also joined forces with Manitoba Family Services and the City of Winnipeg Emergency Social Services to plan the potential opening of a health and social services reception centre in the city. If flooding in the province results in the evacuation of a community, the reception centre would be put into operation.
Response plans are also underway at hospitals, personal care homes, programs, mental health and community offices in the city to prepare for whatever health impacts may ensue from the flood.
Any information regarding flood preparations will be posted on www.winnipeghealthregion.ca. Bookmark the site and check back for up to date information.
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ERIK may be familiar to emergency responders, fire fighters and police. Those working with seniors and health care professionals are also aware of ERIK.
But are you?
ERIK is the reason when emergency responders arrive in a senior's home, the first place they'll look is the fridge.
That's where the Emergency Response Information Kit (ERIK) will be located.
Within the ERIK is key information – who to contact in case of emergency, a person's primary health concerns (such as if they're diabetic or asthmatic), the medications they're taking, if they're allergic to anything and the contact information for their primary care provider.
It's information that's key during an emergency situation, particularly when every minute counts. That's why emergency response personnel were actively involved in distributing them at one point – they wanted people to know about ERIK and have one.
But it's also a helpful tool to summarize your current state of health, outline the medications you are taking and identify key contacts who can speak to your health. An ERIK includes a brochure talking about ERIK, health care directive, It's Safe to Ask Medication Card and a red ERIK sticker for your door. These contents are typically presented in a plastic pouch that's magnetized and placed on your fridge.
If you or your family members haven't completed an ERIK, health experts are encouraging people to complete them – particularly if they live in an area that's at risk for evacuation – even if they aren't a senior or person with a chronic medical condition. "ERIK will be 10 years old this September. One thing we always thought about was making it available to everyone," says Karen Irvine, Resource Coordinator, Boni-Vital Centre for Seniors noting that while ERIK is produced on a small scale for relatively low costs, its impact has been significant. "We've never advertised but everyone has an ERIK story. It's remarkable how it's still so popular."
Downloadable medication card - Make sure you put your address/address of children and spouses somewhere on the form when filling it out
Click here to read more about ERIK
Click here to find out where to get ERIK
To get immunized:
- talk to your doctor
- talk to your public health nurse
- call Health Links-Info Santé (788-8200 or toll-free 1-888-315-9257).
Recommended immunization schedule for adults
Immunizations recommended for adults
General immunization information
Are you okay?
The possibility of flooding can create additional stress for you and your family. It's important to know where to call to speak with someone.
Mobile Crisis Service
Klinic Crisis Line
Health Links/Info Sante
Phone: 788-8200 or toll-free 1-888-315-9257
Manitoba Farm and Rural Stress
General flood evacuation check list
City of Winnipeg EmergWeb
Flood Water Health Concerns - Questions and Answers
Be Prepared, Not Scared
Emergency Planning for Your Family – The Five Step Guide
Your emergency preparedness guide
Emergency Information for Seniors
Preparedness for person with special needs
Prepare for the unexpected
Your pets and emergency preparedness