UC expert urges Australians to be ‘health prepared’ for disasters

UC expert urges Australians to be 'health prepared' for disasters

Amanda Powell

25 January 2012: We are used to preparing our homes and belongings for the threat of bushfires, storms and floods in the summer disaster season, but what about looking after our own health?

University of Canberra disaster response expert Jamie Ranse says Australians need to be prepared to look after their own health in emergency.

“In the wake of a major incident emergency services are stretched and medicines are in short supply so residents should be ready to look after themselves,” Mr Ranse, a health academic specialising in disasters, said.

“People often think about sentimental items they would collect if they were evacuated from their homes, such as photo albums and computers, but they often forget to think about items that support their health needs.”

Mr Ranse said during the Queensland floods, Victorian and Canberra bushfires, people were relocated to evacuation centres where they remained for days or weeks.

“Whilst in these centres, a number of people required medications of some kind. However, during a disaster, medications become increasingly hard to access, and this is made even harder if people don't know what medications they take.”

Jamie Ranse

UC disaster response expert Jamie Ranse. Photo: Michelle McAulay

Mr Ranse said there are a few simple steps people can take to be health prepared, including preparing a list of previous medical and surgical history, as well as a list and a supply of current medication.

“This list should be placed with other items you might take in an evacuation such as blankets and warm clothes. People should also have a basic understanding of first aid and have a small first aid kit in an accessible location.

“It’s also a good idea to get to know your neighbours as you may be able to help them prepare for a disaster, or provide assistance during a disaster.

“It is important that people are as self-sufficient as possible as emergency services are stretched beyond capacity, and they will not be able to respond in a timely matter to minor injuries or ailments.”

Key points to being health prepared:

• Have a current list of medications, aliments and previous medical / surgical history. Keep this list with other items you might take in an evacuation, such as photo albums or computers

• Keep a stocked first aid kit in your car

• Learn first aid and know basic first aid principles such as how to control bleeding, how to open an airway and how to do CPR

• Get to know your neighbours