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An EMS Guide to Hurricane Preparation: Keep Your Family Safe!

girl_under_umbrella_hurricaneWe are just beginning August and already in the middle of an above-average hurricane season. While the thought of being in hurricane season may not concern most people, the thought of getting ready for a hurricane can cause some worry and panic if left to the last minute. The long lines, the financial cost, and finally the letdown when yet another hurricane comes and goes and turns out to be nothing more than a windy, rainy day has made properly preparing for hurricanes a bother and an afterthought. I realize that hurricanes, unlike earthquakes can take days and sometimes weeks to happen and give ample time to prepare, but the fact remains that proper preparation and planning can avoid putting you and your family in danger both during and after a storm.

As an EMS provider, I would like to share with you some of the basic hurricane preparation tips that we tell people and also share with you some of the issues that I have seen in the aftermath of storms and weather events.

INSIDE YOUR HOME

  • How many people will you be preparing for? Will it be just the people in the house or will there be extended family or grandparents as well. Preparing for four people and housing more will deplete supplies very quickly.
  • Do the people in the plan have special needs, handicaps or medications that need to be filled? What about medical devices that require power? Beds, oxygen tanks, breathing machines, asthma machines etc. All need to be considered.
  • If you have a baby or small child, do you have an ample supply of diapers, formula, medication, clothing etc.
  • Food and water. Buying nonperishable food is recommended, and having at least a 3 day supply is recommended as well. How will we cook the food? Propane tanks should be filled and ready, does a barbecue need to be purchased or brought inside? Refrigerators and freezers should be set very low to preserve food in times of power loss. Enough water should be purchased to keep people hydrated during times of power loss and no air conditioning to avoid any heat or dehydration issues. Water should also be considered for cooking needs as well.
  • Do you have enough batteries to power devices? Do you have a power generator in the event of a loss of power for an extended amount of time? There are many different sizes depending on your power needs. Do you have gas for your generator? When storing any type of fuel, please do so in a well ventilated area and not in the living area as fumes may be toxic.
    NEVER RUN YOUR GENERATOR IN OR NEAR THE LIVING AREA. Carbon monoxide from the exhaust can be fatal. The generator or any motorized device should be run outside, in a well ventilated area, well away from where people are gathered or living. Do you have extension cords to run into your home from the generator? Make sure you buy properly rated cords or you could risk a fire starting from overheating of the cords.
  • All pets should be brought in during the storm and enough food and water should be on hand for the pet inside the home. Will there be different pets in the house and could that cause problems? Do the pets take any medication that need to be filled before the storm? Do any of the people staying in your home have any pet allergies? And will this be a possible issue?
  • First Aid supplies. During a storm, EMS providers and fire trucks cannot go outside once the winds hit a certain miles per hour and may prevent us from responding to your home in an emergency. Having a basic first aid kit and supplies such as band aids, gauze, ice packs, ace bandages etc. will help in times of delayed response by EMS.

OUTSIDE YOUR HOME

  • Patio items. Are there any items that may fly way during a storm? Patio furniture, above ground pools, Barbecues, boats, golf carts etc.. If it can be brought inside then it is recommended, but if it cannot then secure it the best you can or try to find an alternate storage site.
  • Securing your home. Do you have impact windows and doors? If not, then are there any hurricane shutters that need to be put up? Do you own hurricane shutters? If not there are places that sell them in standard sizes. Do we have any lingering roof or window issues that may worsen during a heavy rain and wind event? A little drip can turn into a lot more very quickly. Do you have a flooding issue around your home? Sandbags may need to be filled and placed as well.
  • Vehicles can get severely damaged when left outside in a storm. If you have nowhere to store your vehicle then I recommend pulling it as close to the building as possible to avoid as much exposure as possible and it can provide some protection to the structure as well. Having the vehicles fully fueled beforehand is recommended in case of emergency and also to avoid the long lines at the gas station that always result.
  • Sheds and outside storage. In hurricane Andrew here in south Florida, there were numerous reports of tool sheds being sent air born and the tools inside become very sharp and dangerous projectiles in the process. Please secure sheds and storage as much as possible and bring tools inside if possible.
  • Items attached to the home. Any items on the roof such as turbines or whether devices can be ripped off leaving very large holes in the roof and should be removed and capped if possible. Below ground pools should be lowered to avoid damage to the pool as well as the overflowing possible causing flooding towards the home.

Being 100% prepared for a hurricane truly depends on your needs and the needs of those around you. The list of possibilities is endless but the basics are not. What things do YOU and YOUR FAMILY need to survive on a daily basis? Is a question that should be asked, and contrary to your kid’s beliefs, internet is not one of them. The basic essentials of shelter, food, water, and medicines trump all else. The overall list can be long and daunting and looks much worse when done at the last minute. But having the essentials on hand at the beginning of hurricane season leaves time to accomplish everything else thus making that list not so bad. Having been born and raised here in South Florida and gone through hurricane Andrew, I can tell you firsthand that the supplies we had made all the difference and it will for you as well. I hope this list has served as a guide and a good place to start for you.

Thank You

Remembering 911: Creating a New Future For Our Children

This past weekend was the twentieth anniversary of the worst attack against America and our way of life and is a day a national remembrance. The 911 attacks attacked differences. Differences of religion, differences in appearance. The attacks said we are worthy to live, you are not. The attacks said we are better.

Love - 9-11.final2Taking a moment to remember, reminds us to embrace our differences, to embrace other religions, different governments and different appearances. Taking a moment to remember says we all deserve to live. Doing so builds a better life and better future for our children, for all children, for many generations to come. Only we can teach hate and only we can erase hate in the future for our children with love.

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Editor’s Note: This post first ran on 9-11, 12 years ago. It is the author’s hope – and ours – that by remembering and telling our children, we create a better world for them. They deserve it. We all do!!
With heavy hearts…and with love…from Pediatric Safety.

Who At Your Kid’s School Is Certified in CPR or Basic First Aid??

Editor’s Note: With the COVID Delta variant placing our kids at a higher risk, and hospitals and EMS systems stretched way beyond capacity, we’re thinking this may be something you just might want to know.

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It’s a simple question really. How many people at your child’s school are certified in life saving CPR and basic first aid? The answer may surprise you. I am often on the other side of this question training the administrators and teachers in cpr and first aid, and praising them for spending the time and money to go beyond the bare minimum and make sure their entire staff is trained and the children are safe, but putting my oldest child in school for the first time this year made me curious to know the answer to this question.

As a concerned parent I placed a call to Miami Dade public schools and was alarmed to find out that at a public school here in Dade county only two people are required to be certified in CPR and basic first aid. This is a dangerously low number considering that some of the schools here in Dade County have over 5000 students. Not to mention what would happen if one or both of these people calls in sick or goes on vacation? Then you run into the possible situation of having nobody on campus that day required to be trained. Not good. With the normal everyday injuries at schools, the knowledge of basic first aid is a must and add to that the growing number of sudden cardiac events in schools around the country and you will see that having a basic knowledge of first aid and CPR together is also a must and therefore the bare minimum of safety by some schools just will not do.

What would cause a school to keep only the bare minimum of people trained in something so important? Is it that the administrators and staff don’t care about the children’s safety and only do the bare minimum because they have to? Of course not. The answer as usual is money. Now obviously what needs to happen is the schools need to increase the number of people trained in cpr and basic first aid, but like anything else training costs money and with school budgets shrinking by the day and teachers coming out of their own pockets more than ever to make up for the lack of funds, asking a school to budget in training for an entire staff just does not seem possible. So what can you as a concerned parent do? Well if you are certified to train the staff in cpr and first aid then you can do as I have done and donate the training to the school and staff for free, or you can do as some parents here in Dade county have done and that is to raise the funds for the training themselves by having a bake sale or a car wash or some other fundraising event and hire a company to come out to the school and train the entire staff. I cannot think of a better use for that money than the safety of our children.

The bottom line is no matter where you live the people looking after your children, whether it is a school, a daycare or even grandparents need to be trained and know how to react when your child needs help. So go ahead and do as I did and ask the question as to who is certified here and what can I do to help?

Be Safe.

The Last Time I Checked My Child’s Allergy Supplies Was…. ???

As summer approaches and families begin making plans for long-postponed vacations, for our family, it means beginning a summer check up for our allergy needs. Especially since vacation time can also make us forget about other details, summer is a yearly reminder to clean out, update and refill.

Inhaler clean-out - smallCleaning Out A few months ago, something prompted me to check my son’s asthma inhaler. Upon examination, I was horrified. At some point, the inhaler must have discharged while it was enclosed in the holder and had “grown new friends”- yuck! Worse yet, I realized that my son had used the inhaler recently (which means all of what was hanging out in his inhaler was also having a party inside of his lungs too). In times of being a normal mom who worries about her son’s asthma, I was fast forwarded into dry-heave mode quickly followed by recycling the old case and getting a brand new one altogether. I sent the stretchy outer case through the washing machine and let it completely air dry.

The food allergy mom in me sent an email to the wonderful people at the Allergy & Asthma Network. With a tinge of embarrassment for feeling like I was the world’s worst allergy mom, I sent a picture and asked if they had any words of wisdom for me as well as to others on how to prevent a dirty inhaler from entering our lives again. They quickly responded with some helpful information from their Understanding Asthma Guide: “Clean your inhaler following the manufacturer’s instructions, usually once per week. Clean the actuator — not the metal canister — with warm water and leave time for it to air dry before another dose is needed. Holding chambers also need to be washed, especially when the unit becomes cloudy or filmy inside. Replace disposable parts as recommended to avoid bacterial growth. Talk with your doctor if there’s any uncertainty about cleaning your inhaler or holding chamber.”

Updating During my frantic summer allergy cleaning binge, I also noticed my son’s emergency contact paperwork was faded and torn. This is something that I consider to be an extension of safety for him in the event that he is unable to speak for himself. It contains a copy of my son’s Allergy Action Plan. I also updated his picture because, gosh, don’t all children seem to change overnight?! This is also helpful when your child is with people they normally aren’t around (such as a substitute teacher) so that they have immediate confirmation that the person with the food allergy pack matches up with the listed allergens and contact information. Never assume, always overdue. Nobody ever died from too much information, only not enough.

I also checked expiration dates on his medications both inside his allergy pack and the extras that we keep on hand in the house and made sure our stock was full. It only took one bad asthma night with just a few counted doses available in his inhaler for me to realize that expiration dates on these life-saving medications are something that cannot be forgotten. Again, as a mom of an asthmatic child, the last thing that you want to tell your child who is gasping for breath is to not use their inhaler unless they have to because it might run out. I’m not proud of that moment but it happens to the best of us and teaches us new organization and safety techniques to avoid future repeats.

Early script refills - smallRefilling Because of the discount cards available the past few years, this is one area that is super easy and non-stressful. Both EpiPen and Auvi-Q have continued to provide copay assistance, which means one less expense. Nothing can beat refilling a prescription for twin packs of epinephrine and seeing a giant $0 on the receipt. Don’t get me wrong- my son’s safety is priceless and I would gladly pay to keep him that much safer at all times but not having to spend that money each year is a food allergy parents dream.

I do recommend discussing how to write out the prescription correctly with your child’s pediatrician or allergy specialist. This will ensure full benefit of the copay discounts, additional epinephrine to have on hand and for the next school year and ultimately, it will save you time going back and forth to the pharmacy for repeat refills. Also discuss correct dosages of medications for your child’s height, weight and age to prevent wasting a refilled prescription (ex: filling an Epipen Jr prescription and finding out after the fact that your child is now considered to be within the EpiPen adult dosage range…then what to do with the wasted medications?)

Allergies can be tricky but each year brings new techniques and better ways to come up with a strategy on what works best for your child and family. Just remember to be accepting of what might not work in the beginning, or even the year after and always give yourself more than enough time to be ready for school. The better prepared and calm that you seem, the less stressed your allergic child will begin another school year.

Making Play Dough – A Family First Aid Fiasco

Reading the post, First Aid Basics Every Parent Should Know, from Kristin Bailey Murphy reminded me of one of our own first aid experiences. Kids may be accident magnets…but it doesn’t help when Mom and Dad have a “dumb parent moment”!

Our Emergency

This first aid fiasco was rooted in “mommy-guilt”. When my son was two years old I started taking him to crafty enrichment classes at our local children’s museum every Saturday. I was working a lot during that period and this was a chance to spend time together while also feeling like I was doing something for his development.

It was in these classes that I learned the recipe for homemade play dough. Wow…not only could we share these classes together….but I could give my young son safe, edible (what doesn’t a two-year old eat?) play dough THAT I MADE MYSELF! But, seriously, the stuff is really easy and fun to make – and even at age two Elliott could help in making play dough, since you have to knead the dough while it cools.

No, the issue came from me trying to add that little something extra – a little more mommy-love. The museum jazzed up their dough with glitter and some peppermint oil for fragrance. So I went out and bought a few different essential oils – for variety. On the particular day in question, with Elliott standing on a chair at the kitchen counter helping me as I started making play dough, I decided to try cinnamon oil. Only the lid was really tight. My husband was nearby so I asked him to open the bottle (one of several great husband roles!) – which he promptly did. But I didn’t notice since I was occupied by congealing play dough in a pot on the stove. And he didn’t realize that I didn’t notice. Communication breakdown! But our 2-year old noticed…and promptly poured concentrated food-grade cinnamon oil all over himself. Essential oils, like cinnamon oil, can be toxic to the skin in high concentrations and can result in itching, burning, redness and inflammation. Suddenly we had a screaming child in the kitchen – and had to deal with a poison control situation!

What To Do (and Not To Do!)

We knew we had to get the oil off his skin quickly – and keep him from spreading it to other areas like his face, since he had it on his hands as well. My husband stripped off his clothes immediately and held his arms down while rushing him to the bathroom. In the meantime I was calling our local Poison Control Center.

Since he was so young our first reaction was to put him in the bath, but as soon as the water started to pool around him we realized our mistake. This wouldn’t wash away the oil. It might just get it on more of his body. And that’s just what the Poison Control experts said. They recommended flushing water over the affected area for a full 20 minutes, especially since he had a definite red rash where his skin had come in contact with the oil. To best accomplish this and to soothe Elliott, my husband stripped down and got into the shower as well. That way he could be sure of the water temperature and that the right skin areas were in the water flow. Thankfully the shower had an almost immediate effect. The crying stopped very quickly – and after the full 20 minutes there were no lasting marks or redness. But for several years our son did have an aversion to “cimmomon”!

How To Be (Better) Prepared

Obviously keep all essential oils out of the reach of children – and be careful when using them in the presence of kids. Something we became acutely aware of! As Kristin pointed out in her post, also be sure to have the number of your local Poison Control prominently displayed. But if you need to find it quickly – like we did – just look on the first page of your white or yellow pages.

And here is the infamous play dough recipe. Despite this incident we’ve had many years of safe fun and success with it.

Homemade Play Dough

1 Cup Flour

1 Cup Water

1 Tbs Vegetable Oil

½ Cup Salt

1 Tsp Cream of Tartar

A few drops of Food Coloring or Essential Oil (e.g. Peppermint Oil) {optional}

Glitter {optional}

Cook over medium heat until mixture pulls away from sides of pan and becomes play dough in consistency (add glitter part way through this process, before the dough becomes too thick). Remove from pan and knead until cool. Keeps 3 months unrefrigerated in a sealed zip-closure bag.

First Aid Basics Every Parent Should Know

No matter how protective you are as a parent, kids are just accident magnets. They scrape knees, bump heads and bust lips in their endless pursuit of exploration and fun. In fact, according to the National Safe Kids Campaign, one out of four children per year sustains an injury serious enough to require medical attention. While you can’t always keep your kids from getting hurt, you can be prepared to provide first aid when they are. Here are some common emergencies and guidelines on how to react:

Emergency Your kids are running barefoot in the backyard, when one of them cuts her foot on a sharp rock.

What to do “The first thing you should do is clean the cut and stop the bleeding,” says Dr. Richard E. Miller, a pediatrician at Cedars Sinai in Los Angeles. Wash it thoroughly with soap and water and then apply firm pressure using gauze or a clean washcloth. “If the cut is superficial, apply an antiseptic ointment and close the wound with a butterfly band-aid,” says Dr. Miller. “But if it’s a deep, open wound that won’t stop bleeding, or if any tissue or muscle is exposed, basic first aid may not be enough – go to the emergency room for stitches.”

Be prepared Always make sure that kids wear shoes when playing outside. And keep adhesive bandages, gauze and antiseptic ointment on hand at all times.

Emergency Your toddler sneaks up to the stove while you’re cooking and burns her hand on the pot.

What to do First aid is needed to quickly to reduce the temperature of the burn and limit the damage to skin. For first-degree burns (red skin, minor swelling and pain but no blisters), remove clothes from the burned area, run cool – not cold – water over the burn for 3 to 5 minutes. Or press a wet, cold compress. If the burn is small, loosely cover it in gauze or bandage. For second-degree burns (blisters, severe pain and redness) or third-degree burns (the surface looks dry and is waxy white, leathery, brown or charred, although there may be no pain or numbness), call 911. Keep your child lying down and elevate the burned area. Remove clothing from the burned area, unless it is stuck to the skin. Don’t break any blisters. Apply cool water over the burn area for 3 to 5 minutes and then cover it with a clean white cloth or sheet until help arrives.

Be prepared In the kitchen, turn pot handles toward the back of the stove while you cook. Never hold your baby while you cook. In the bathroom, always turn the cold water on first and off last, and test bath water with your elbow.

Emergency Your energetic son just knocked his tooth out on the bedpost while jumping on the bed.

What to do To stop the bleeding, firmly apply a piece of wet gauze to the gums until the bleeding stops. If he lost a baby tooth, there’s no need for concern: A permanent tooth will eventually grow in its place. But you should visit a dentist regardless just to make sure none of his underlying teeth were damaged. If the tooth he lost was a permanent one, time is of essence. The faster you act, the higher your odds of saving the tooth. The American Academy of Pediatric Dentists recommends holding the tooth by its crown and reinserting it into the socket, pressing it firmly in place with clean gauze. (If that’s not possible, place the tooth in a cup of milk, which will preserve the tooth’s roots.) Then visit a pediatric dentist immediately.

Be prepared Keep a pediatric dentist’s number on your refrigerator and in your cell phone.

Emergency You’re making breakfast when your toddler walks over to show you his new toy: an open bottle of prescription pills.

What to do Any time a child has potentially swallowed a hazardous substance, call your local poison control center immediately. If your child has collapsed or stopped breathing, call 911 first. Each case of poisoning is unique, and treatment varies greatly depending on what hazardous substance your child has ingested. Never take a wait-and-see attitude when it comes to poison emergencies. Seek immediate treatment.

Be prepared Poison-proof your home by storing all medication in childproof containers kept out of children’s reach. Post the number of your local poison control center somewhere highly visible, like your refrigerator.

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