DISASTER PREPAREDNESS – ARE YOUR PREPARED?
Ongoing disasters & violence in our country have made clear that there is an increased need for everyone to learn how to take steps to be ready in the case of an emergency. Being prepared, allows you to respond with confidence and helps to reduce the fear, anxiety and losses that accompany many emergencies. In the past, The Boston Society of Vulcans partnered with the American Red Cross, American Heart Association, Department of Public Health Fire Injury Prevention Program, Public Health Commission, Executive Office of Public Safety, and the Urban Public Safety Coalition, to offer training, for groups and individuals of all ages, to develop safety skills and resources to the community to help save lives.
Our goals through these programs & services were: 1) to raise the public’s awareness of the natural and human-caused hazards that threaten them; 2) to educate people on what they can and should do to better protect themselves and their property; and 3) to motivate them to take those steps. We distributed a variety of materials designed by our partners to educate the public through electronic, printed and video materials as well as Public Service Announcements (PSAs) and community presentations that informed the public about how to stay safe to protect their home and families.
It is estimated that 75% percent of the families and homes in Boston are not prepared for a disaster, or have the basic safety skills to respond to a disaster, or emergency in their home……
Disaster can strike quickly and without warning. It can force you to evacuate your neighborhood or confine you to your home. What would you do if basic services–water, gas, electricity or telephones–were cut off? Local officials and relief workers will be on the scene after a disaster, but they cannot reach everyone right away. Therefore, the best way to make your family and your home safer is to be prepared before disaster strikes.
Floods, hurricanes, earthquakes, tornadoes, and other natural hazards rob families of their homes and belongings, cause major disruptions to businesses, and cost billions in property damage and economic losses. The soaring social and economic costs of disasters can be dramatically reduced if individuals, families, businesses, and communities take the necessary steps to reduce their vulnerability and properly prepare.
We recommend disaster preparedness training along with a CPR First Aid program, designed to educate community members about the importance of being prepared, what to do, and how to find resources that will help them in the event of a disaster. The program should include a special focus on neighborhood residents working together to develop a disaster plan, along with kits and other needed personal supplies.
Preparing for Disaster: Make sure your family has a plan in place before a disaster occurs. Tips are provided on how to prepare for any event with a plan that includes a supplies-kit and emergency checklist for your important personal considerations, items and documents. Emergencies can strike at any time. Be prepared with an Emergency Preparedness Kit, with supplies including water, food, radio, a flashlight, batteries and more.
Sheltering-in-Place: One of the instructions you may be given in an emergency where hazardous materials may have been released into the atmosphere is to shelter-in-place. This is a precaution aimed to keep you safe while remaining indoors. (This is not the same thing as going to a shelter in case of a storm.) Shelter-in-place means selecting a small, interior room, with no or few windows, and taking refuge there. It does not mean sealing off your entire home or office building.
Evacuation: Do you know where to go if you are told to evacuate your neighborhood, or city. In this section, we will cover information on the city’s evacuation routes, going to a shelter and the type of preparedness kit you will need to take.
Mass Dispensing: What is Mass Dispensing? An area designed to provide medication as fast as possible to as many residents as possible to prevent illness in the event of a public health emergency. An undertaking on this scale requires the commitment of many volunteers, as the assumption is that state and federal resources will be overwhelmed and our success depends upon our community’s local resources. A part of this training will include: Stressing the need for volunteers for the Medical Reserve Corps- it is important to have a trained core of volunteers prepared in advance to best respond to an emergency. Extensive planning has been done to prepare in the event of a large scale medical emergency, or pandemic outbreak, but the need for volunteers to assist and for the public to be trained on how and where to respond is crucial in providing treatment and stopping the outbreak from spreading. Training also includes universal precautions such as proper handwashing, wearing masks and gloves and their proper disposal.
CPR, FIRST AID & AED
Training in this area, educates community members of all ages in CPR, First Aide and defibrillator use. While CPR has been proven to save lives, the American Red Cross estimates that fewer than 25% of all adults in the U.S. have learned these critical skills. The Red Cross estimates that 100,000 to 200,000 lives of adults and children could be saved each year if CPR were performed early enough. When someone’s heart or breathing stops, he or she typically only has four to six minutes before lack of oxygen can result in brain damage –or even death. The simple skills of CPR, or shocking a heart back to life with an electronic defibrillator, can buy extra time for a loved one, until professional help can arrive.
CAR SEAT SAFETY
The Massachusetts Child Passenger Safety Law was amended in April 2008 and requires children to ride as passengers in motor vehicles in a federally approved child passenger restraint that is properly fastened and secured until they are 8 years old OR over 57″ tall. The expanded law will require a booster seat/safety belt combination for children who have outgrown a child safety seat – typically when they are above age five or 40 pounds – until they are 8 years old OR over 57″ tall. The Massachusetts Safety Belt Law requires safety belt use by those 13 years of age and older.
Child safety seats, when correctly used, are 71% effective in reducing the risk of deaths for infants and toddlers in a crash. Massachusetts law requires all children to ride in a federally approved child seat, or restraint until they are 12 years old. You can be pulled over by the police and fined for every child not in a proper seat.
Your child’s safety seat can be checked by visiting a local organization:
767 Albany Street
Boston, MA 02118
Phone: (617) 343-6891
Boston Public Health Commission:
In Massachusetts, motor vehicle crashes are one of the number one causes of death and acquired disabilities in children above the age of one each year. According to past Safe Kids data, Boston has been able to reduce the number of deaths caused to children in passenger vehicles, but not the rate of injuries. Over 1500 children between the ages of 4-8 visit the emergency room each year in Boston for crash related injuries.
What is a leading challenge and solution? More than any other demographic factor, a parent’s level of education seems to have the biggest impact on whether or not they use age- and size-appropriate child restraints to protect their children in a crash. Children whose parents have a high school education or less put their children at highest risk of serious injury or death in a crash, because these children are 27 percent more likely to be inappropriately restrained compared with those whose parents have attended some college. Parents with a high school education or less are among the least likely to use appropriate child restraints (Journal of Traffic Injury Prevention).
Independent of educational level, research has found that African Americans, Latinos, children with parents older than 35, and families with an income of $20,000 or less were also more likely to use inappropriate child restraints (Children’s Hospital). Individually, each of these risk factors increases a child’s likelihood of being inappropriately restrained by about 25 percent. Public education campaigns aimed at increasing car seat use that is specifically tailored to families at highest risk for crash injury need to continue.
Strategies for improved educational efforts, including the need for separate educational tactics for parents who don’t restrain their children at all, and for those who are incorrectly using seat belts needs to be a core focus. Additionally, educational efforts need to take into account the parents’ attitudes toward health, cultural, language factors, and children’s resistance to being in a seat. Legislation and law enforcement can also play a role in convincing parents of the necessity of child restraints; and once a law is passed, educational campaigns need to refer to the new law (Children’s Hospital). Since poverty is an important factor, increased availability of low-cost, or free child restraints and booster seats for low-income families should be continued, if not expanded.
In the past, The Urban Public Safety Coalition estimated that approximately 85% of the car seats (425 seats) that were checked in a two year period, had been consistently misused or incorrectly installed, by the parents that stopped at the checkpoints (A figure that is in line with the National Safe Kids data of 90%). Many of the parents tended to come from the low-income, minority and bilingual neighborhoods of Boston. The misuse was due to the lack of appropriate information, training, inability to read or understand the instructions that came with the seats, and language barriers.
Additionally, many families could not afford to purchase new car seats, or purchased used seats from second hand stores, they pulled seats out of the trash, or were not aware that car-seats come with an expiration date. Some seats were more than ten years old, had parts missing, or were not the right size for the child. Some parents understood that there were problems with their child’s seat, but stated that they did not know where to go for help.
While lack of parental effort/education does account for some of the misuse, another area of concern was related to the complicated process of properly restraining children. Not all models of car seats fit all models of motor vehicles and many belt systems are incompatible with child restraints. There are up to 100,000 possible combinations of car styles, car seats, and seat belts. That is why trained technicians in the local communities are needed more now than ever!
WHAT WAS THE UPC?
The Urban Public Safety Coalition (UPC), was comprised of three core organizations: The Massachusetts Minority State Police Officers Association (MMSPOA) established in 1992, the Massachusetts Association of Minority Law Enforcement Officers (MAMLEO) formed in 1968, and the Boston Society of Vulcans, Firefighters Association (VULCANS) formed in 1969.
In April of 2006, the organizations united in collaboration and formed the Urban Public Safety Coalition (UPSC), to serve as a tool to expand their resources, and as a means to bring forward initiatives in the area of safety and injury prevention to high risk, low income and bilingual communities. The associate organization JADE, joined as a partner for 2008, to assist with outreach to the Asian populations in the city.
The coalition focused on four specific areas of safety/prevention: Motor vehicle/car-seat safety, fire prevention, violence prevention and CPR/First aid training. As police officers and firefighters, we saw first-hand the devastation caused by preventable deaths and injuries to young children from fire, violence, lack of basic safety skills, motor vehicles and improperly restrained children. The impact of cultural and language barriers can keep a family from understanding, or being able to access resources available to them, because they cannot communicate their needs. The collaboration enabled the four organizations to open communications to several major bilingual populations in the city, because of their diverse memberships. Combined, the organizations expanded their capacity to reach out to families that speak: Spanish, Haitian Creole, Chinese and Vietnamese.
A 2004 city of Boston report, and a two-year study from the Department of Public Health, found that 31% of homes in five specific Boston neighborhoods did not contain a working smoke or carbon monoxide detector. In many homes that did contain detectors, they were either 15 years old or greater and batteries have either been removed, were inactive, or no units existed at all.
Detectors should be placed on every level of a home, replaced every ten (10) years, and tested monthly. Batteries should be replaced every six months and never removed for false alarms or other uses.
Cultural customs, language barriers, and lack of prevention skills, compounded with the impact of poverty, and unemployment, all play a role in contributing to a “lack of urgency” attitude, or the immediate seriousness of preparedness and injury prevention preparation. The risk is especially prevalent among families with children under 14, bilingual populations, and the elderly (2005 National Safe Kids Report & 2005 MFIRS data). Three of the most troubling problems are:
The lack of motivation among residents in reaching out and accessing resources for preparedness preparation.
The lack of understanding in the role of responsibility residents must take in addressing their need for pre-emergency planning and care.
The number of families without a basic home evacuation and preparedness plan, should a disaster occur in their home or neighborhood.
Fires continue to plague Boston on a daily basis. The 2004 Massachusetts Fire Incident Reporting System (MFIRS) documents that in 2003, Boston had a total of 3,669 fires, in 2004 the number increased to 3,833, in 2005 to 3,874, along with an increase in fatalities. Boston is listed as having one of the highest rates of fire in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, with a total dollar loss of $26,637,139.
The two high risk groups for Boston continue to be the elderly and children, although there has been a slight increase for college students. Older adults continue to be at greater risk for fire, with critical injuries and deaths resulting from smoking while using home oxygen systems. Cooking continues to be a major cause of fire injury to the elderly, and over ¼ of the seniors that died in 2004 – 2005 fires, no detectors were present or detectors were present but did not operate. The data for children shows that, each year, many fires are started by children ages 3-8 that are merely curious about fire. From 1993 through 2002, there were 8,500 juvenile set fires reported in Massachusetts, with 30% of them occurring in Boston. Twenty-three (23) children, all ten years old or younger, died in fires caused by children playing with matches and lighters. These fires caused 425 civilian and 454 firefighter injuries. The estimated dollar loss for all of these fires was over $33 million.
The aforementioned risk assessment information makes it clear that too many people continue to be affected by public safety hazards and there are steps that can be taken to reduce the impact of these problems. The residents of Boston neighborhoods continue to be affected by these problems as well as the obstacles to solving them based on a number of factors, such as lack of access to resources, income, language and cultural barriers.
According to a previous Healthy Boston Report, more than 100 ethnicities are represented in Boston’s neighborhoods and 140 languages are spoken in Boston’s homes. Boston is now overall more than 52% people of color, with a significant increase in its bilingual, immigrant population. Almost 75% of its teenagers are of color, as are 86% of the children and youth in Boston’s public schools. Like most urban cities, Boston has its difficulties with violent crime, school dropouts, drugs, teen pregnancies, lack of youth programs, and unemployment.
A past City of Boston report, and a study from the Department of Public Health, estimated that 31% of homes in several Boston neighborhoods do not contain a working smoke, or carbon monoxide detector. The units were either fifteen years old or greater, batteries were removed or inactive, or no units existed at all. In 2004, there were Over 589,141 residents that lived in Boston, in an estimated 290,972 housing units that vary in size from single family to multi-unit dwellings. According to the 2004 city census, seventy percent of the housing units in Boston were constructed before 1985, prior to the initial mandatory smoke detector law. About 144,303 are single to three family units, which do not require hardwired (electric) detectors, and are more than likely battery operated.
According to the DPH, it is estimated that about 44,734 homes in Boston were at risk, and may not be protected by an installed, or properly working smoke detector. Compound the previous mentioned data with other Boston demographics, such as a growing immigrant population with a different cultural attitude and knowledge of fire, rise in unemployment, increase in children, and an aging housing stock, Boston is at great risk. Ongoing initiatives such as education, prevention, and equipment giveaways such as smoke and carbon monoxide detectors will continue to be needed for years to come.