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Evacuation Considerations for Special Needs Populations

Evacuation Considerations for Special Needs Populations
Amy M. Schlessman, PT, DPT, DHS
May 31, 2016

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This course is a transcript of a live webinar, Evacuation Considerations for Special Needs Populations by Amy M Schlessman, PT, DPT, DHS   Learner Outcomes The participant will be able to identify at least three agencies involved in evacuating special needs populationsThe participant will be able to define the four elements of evacuation information that people needThe participant will be able to identify at least four components of building an evacuation plan for a person with a mobility impairmentThe participant will be able to identify at least four components of building an evacuation plan for a person with a visual impairmentThe participant will be able to identify at least four components of building an evacuation plan for a person with a hearing impairmentThe participant will be able to identify at least four components of building an evacuation plan for a person with a speech impairmentThe participant will be able to identify at least four components of building an evacuation plan for a person with a cognitive impairmentThe participant will be able to outline at least three strategies to developing a personal emergency evacuation checklist  Introduction I have been sharing information on evacuation considerations for special needs populations for a little over 10 years now. I had some experiences in a variety of different work settings that opened my eyes to the importance of evacuation procedures. I worked with the geriatric population in a home healthcare setting in an older neighborhood that had a lot of hills and accessibility challenges. In addition to that, I also worked in some schools where the buildings were older. We had different situations arise with emergency procedures, whether it be shelter in place from chemical spills or lock-down drills. All at once, people were asking me, “What would be a good procedure for this? What should we do in this particular situation? What is the best procedure for this and what are some resources?” At that time, I had limited knowledge. What do all good therapists do? We seek out that knowledge. I started contacting local emergency responders and talking to administrators, both in the home healthcare setting and school districts. I started looking at ways to develop an evacuation plan for individuals with various special needs. How do we help make sure that they are safe and prepared for various types of emergencies? One agency that is very involved is the National Fire Protection Association. They have different codes and standards of development compiled in a nice guide, which I have included in your reference list for you to take a look at at a later time. It is critical, as an employer and as a healthcare professional, that we take the opportunity to share our expertise and resources on emergency evacuation. We need to inform our patients and their families on the importance of educating themselves and creating an evacuation plan so they can be prepared and move forward in this process. Recent Catastrophic Events and Statistics When you think about recent events that have happened (e.g., Hurricane Katrina, Hurricane Rita), who had the most difficulty getting out? Sadly, it was people with disabilities, the aging population and people with special needs or special medical considerations. They are disproportionately affected in catastrophic events because they did not have access to the appropriate transportation, or they were unable to understand the emergency communications, or they did not have a plan in place. In a stressful situation, it becomes even harder to reach people to help you and get the equipment and backup items that you need to get out. The key groups that you need to work with during an evacuation situation are local and state authorities. They conduct and serve as the decision-makers for evacuation operations. I encourage you to get in touch with some of those local authorities and local first responders. The first time I called, they were extremely enthusiastic. No matter what type of setting you work in, talk to your local first responders about the situation about the people that you are working with. Also, connect your patients and their families with those local authorities and encourage them to come up with a game plan in terms of preparing and planning for an evacuation. Hurricane Statistics – Katrina and RitaIn 2005, over 40% of those that did not have a chance to evacuate in Hurricane Katrina were either physically unable to leave or were caring for an individual with a disability. 34% of the victims were trapped in their homes and 50% of those trapped waited three or more days to be rescued. As occupational and physical therapists, we work with patients that have mobility limitations. They have difficulty getting up and down stairs, they have limited walking distance, and/or they have difficulties with transfers. They may also have difficulties in processing information and in communicating information. People with disabilities comprise 25 to 30% of those impacted by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. That is a significant percentage. Those are just two different emergencies that occurred.  What can we do as OT’s and PTs to help those individuals get prepared? Evacuation Planning Considerations TransportationTransportation during emergencies is critical. Especially for those that have specific mobility issues. Is it a manual wheelchair or is it a power wheelchair that they use? Do they have independent mobility in those devices? Do they rely on another individual to propel their wheelchair? Do they have a walker? How fast is their pace? How would they do with stairs? Do they need assistance to get in and out of their particular building? How fast do they need to get out, where do they need to go? Communicating with emergency responders to establish a game plan for a safe amount of time that you potentially need to get out is an essential piece to ask in looking at the transportation aspect as well. Medical ConditionsSome of the patients we work with have complex medical conditions. They have comorbidities. They may have unique living situations where they have multiple caregivers or maybe they have very limited amount of caregivers. You will need...

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amy m schlessman

Amy M. Schlessman, PT, DPT, DHS

Amy received a bachelor of science and a master of physical therapy degree from Ohio University. She received a doctor of physical therapy degree and doctor of health science degree from the University of Indianapolis. Amy is an assistant professor in the physical therapy program at University of Findlay. She has been a school-based PT for 18 years, promoting physical activity embedded into academics and inter-professional collaboration while closely working with educators, administrators, therapists and parents. Her research on pediatric health promotion was published in Pediatric Physical Therapy. She published an activity book “Recycle Bin Boogie: Move and Learn with Recyclables,” which combines movement and learning with common household recyclables.  Her YouTube channel offers simple, DIY, low cost, movement and learning strategies for school and at home.  Amy has conducted presentations in various states and nationally for educators and therapists, where her energy and presentation style engages, energizes and empowers attendees!



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