Proactive emergency guidelines for personal and professional settings during unforeseen emergencies

Ensuring public health becomes a primary focus in light of potential health consequences for vulnerable populations due to heavy rains and floods in specific regions with high summer temperatures and increased humidity. The same principles can apply in the event of other natural calamities. These conditions can also create favorable environments for the development of unexpected health risks like bacteria, parasites, and viruses, which are typically absent or easily controlled under normal circumstances through preventive measures by specialized governmental and private entities.

In such difficult situations, it’s imperative not to have unrealistic expectations regarding the involvement of local and national authorities, non-governmental organizations, health sector partners etc. in ensuring citizens’ safety and minimizing disruptions to health and daily activities. Always consider that others may be in more critical situations than yourself, and authorities may prioritize actions based on risk assessment.

Nevertheless, it’s crucial to acknowledge that humans may not always dictate the immediate consequences of such events, which can potentially result in health complications and unsafe living conditions. Therefore, it is important to be prepared, informed, and educated on how to prevent or manage complications arising from such exposure.

Heavy rainfall, including localized downpours, may result in hazards such as flash floods, water accumulation in flood-prone areas, and landslides, causing significant obstructions and traffic disruptions, making it difficult for people to access their workplaces. Residents are often unprepared for such challenges.

Therefore, this document aims to support the population, employees across various industries, and their families in maintaining optimal health and avoiding complications during weather emergencies. During such periods, affected populations should be more vigilant in preventing the spread of infectious diseases, managing water and food sources, and addressing risks such as electrocution and transportation difficulties.

Drawing from past experiences, individuals should identify risks associated with their workplaces, accommodations, and usual travel routes, preparing for future events. Learn from your own experiences, or even better, glean wisdom from the experiences of others. Never assume that difficulties will never impact you or your family.

To minimize panic and alleviate difficulties during or after such experiences, it's valuable to take preventive measures where possible and remain calm while addressing the situation at hand.

  • It’s crucial to stockpile some extra potable water and non-perishable food items that can be stored at room temperature for several days in emergencies. Examples include rice, flour, oil, potatoes, nuts, and canned foods. These provisions can sustain you and your family for at least a few days during unforeseen circumstances.
  • Pet owners should always ensure they have an extra supply of pet food to cover their animals for a couple of weeks in an emergency. Additionally, it’s important not to overlook keeping pets vaccinated and up to date with routine medical check-ups.
  • Essential washing-related items, including toothpaste, soap, shampoo, personal hygiene products, detergents, disinfectants, disinfectant wipes, wet wipes for skincare, dishwashing detergents, paper tissues, and cleaning supplies like mops and brooms, should always be stocked in the facilities’ storage area.
  • Stick to a regular cleaning schedule and avoid postponing cleaning tasks for too long.
  • Clothes should be washed regularly; avoid letting dirty items pile up. It’s better to organize routine hygiene practices for both home and office on a regular basis rather than waiting until there are too many pending cleaning tasks. Additionally, ensure that bed linens are changed regularly, used towels are replaced frequently with clean ones and routine cleaning procedures within the facilities are prioritized.
  • Ensure that garbage cans are regularly emptied and dishes are washed immediately after food consumption to avoid letting them pile up in the sink.
  • Maintain room temperatures between 21 and 23°C in the areas where you reside unless otherwise specified by equipment or procedures in those rooms. Regularly inspect electrical bulbs to confirm they are working correctly and check electrical plugs and other appliances to ensure they are in good condition and positioned away from water sources whenever feasible.
  • Regularly clean and disinfect AC filters, particularly in regions with high temperatures and humidity. Additionally, check fire extinguishers and fire alarms every six months to verify their functionality and ensure they are in place in case of an emergency.
  • Ensure regular maintenance of the building where you work or reside is conducted on time. This includes verifying the electrical installation, pipes, air conditioning, gas, internet connection, water supply, and other essential components.
  • Every household or facility should have a minimum set of tools available for urgent maintenance tasks. Additionally, it’s advisable to keep extra batteries and 1-2 lanterns at home in case of electricity breakdowns.
  • If you own a personal car, maintain a routine maintenance schedule to keep it in optimal condition at all times.
    Water your plants promptly and as frequently as needed.
  • If you have a swimming pool or any other static water source in your garden or living area, it’s essential to strictly adhere to the cleaning and sanitation protocols mandated by local standards. Remember that water can easily become a breeding ground for infection or the development of unhealthy conditions, including insects, bacteria, and other microorganisms, if not properly maintained.
  • Insect repellents are strongly recommended in areas where mosquitoes are prevalent to prevent the transmission of diseases.
  • Pest control measures are advisable for establishments and residences where insects and rodents are observed.
  • Avoid leaving food outdoors to prevent attracting pests.

Furthermore, it's advisable to maintain well-equipped first aid kits containing essential medical supplies. It's crucial to ensure an adequate supply of medication in advance, especially for individuals with known medical conditions.

  • For individuals with diabetes, it’s prudent to have a glucometer readily available at home, along with the necessary consumables, and to regularly check their expiry dates.
  • Similarly, for those with known or potential hypertension, it’s advisable to have a blood pressure monitoring machine available in your facility. Ensure you have the minimum training required to operate the machine if necessary.
  • For individuals with known cases of bronchial asthma, it’s essential to always have an inhaler, if/ as prescribed by the current doctor, accessible not only at home but also in the workplace. Additionally, consider carrying one with you wherever you go or travel.
  • If you have known allergic reactions to specific allergens and have previously required the use of EpiPens, it’s crucial to ensure you have an adequate supply of the recommended emergency medication and regularly check its expiry date.
  • For individuals with known dental issues, it’s advisable to address them at the earliest stage possible or schedule preventive dental check-ups every 6-12 months. This helps prevent severe pain or complications in potential emergency situations, especially when access to medical facilities may be challenging.
  • If you are pregnant, familiarize yourself with all signs and symptoms related to pregnancy. Keep a sufficient stock of your supplements or other necessary consumables on hand. Educate yourself about the expected symptoms associated with each stage of pregnancy to be prepared and avoid panicking in case of any emergency.
  • If you take controlled medication regularly, always obtain your prescribed medication in advance. Avoid waiting until your supply is almost depleted before getting a prescription and supply for the next round of treatment.
  • If you wear corrective lenses, it’s important to have a spare pair of glasses or contact lenses available.
  • Ensure you have an ample supply of baby food, cleaning products, diapers, and other essential items for your baby, if any. Keep books and age-appropriate games on hand to keep children occupied during emergencies, preventing boredom and panic.
  • If you care for a person with disabilities, ensure their comfort and attend to their daily needs as much as possible. In emergencies, you should be prepared to safely evacuate the disabled person from high-risk areas.

Regular emergency preparedness training should be provided to all employees, and it can also be beneficial for family members.

  • Ensure that all employees undergo basic first-aid training procedures to mitigate panic during emergencies. This knowledge can be lifesaving until specialized emergency services arrive. Some family members could also benefit from such training.
  • Familiarize all employees in companies with firefighting and emergency evacuation procedures.
  • Educate employees and family members on emergency procedures for earthquakes, regardless of whether they live or work in a high-risk geographic area.
  • Additionally, it’s important to place emergency contact numbers in visible and easily accessible locations, such as on tailored fridge magnets or informative boards in companies. These numbers should include those for the police, ambulance, security, nearby pharmacies, family doctors, paediatricians, and other relevant contacts.
  • Conduct regular emergency drills at home and the workplace to ensure everyone knows what to do in various scenarios.
  • Designate a meeting point and ensure everyone knows how to reach each other.
  • Through training and awareness efforts, emphasize the importance of hand hygiene, general hygiene, cough hygiene, and toilet hygiene to your children, family members, and employees. Regular hygiene practices, like handwashing, play a crucial role in disease prevention, especially for food handlers, housekeepers, medical professionals, teachers and school assistants, people living and working in collectivizes, those living in camps, etc.

Other helpful recommendations:

  • Use bottled water to brush your teeth if the tap water quality is inadequate.
  • Routine activities such as taking showers and household cleaning do not necessitate special precautions related to tap water usage.
  • Extra caution is recommended when consuming fruits, vegetables, perishable food items, fresh fruit juices and salads, and ice in beverages. Emphasizing the use of bottled water for various washing purposes.
  • If you have any doubts about the quality or freshness of products, the cleanliness of food handlers, or the water used, it’s safer to avoid consuming those products to minimize health risks.
  • Additionally, practicing handwashing before meals serves as a vital precautionary measure in preventing the spread of various infectious diseases, particularly those transmitted through contaminated hands.
  • Maintaining hygiene in toilets is paramount, and it’s strongly recommended to display signage prompting handwashing after toilet use to encourage consistent hygiene practices.
  • In regions with a high risk of water and foodborne illnesses or potential exposure to unvaccinated animals, it’s recommended to get vaccinated against Hepatitis A, Typhoid, Tetanus, and Rabies. It’s important to monitor and maintain routine vaccination requirements for children and adults to minimize exposure to potential risk factors if no other adequate protection is available.

Taking extra precautions and preventive measures is always preferable to being completely unprepared for possible emergency situations in your life, whether it's in your home/private life or at work.

  • Make copies of important documents such as identification cards, insurance policies, and medical records. Store them in a waterproof container or digitally in a secure cloud storage.
  • Explore investing in a backup power source such as a generator or solar panels to maintain essential electrical functions during power outages.
  • Consider wearing a medical wristband containing vital medical information and emergency contact details, especially if you or any family members, particularly children, have a life-threatening condition that requires specific medical attention in emergencies.
  • Keep yourself updated with reliable information from local authorities and news outlets regarding potential hazards or emergencies in your area.
  • Familiarize yourself with local community resources such as emergency shelters, evacuation routes, and disaster relief organizations.
  • You can consider participating in or establishing a neighbourhood watch program to promote safety and mutual assistance during emergencies.
  • Avoid sharing alarming information unless it comes from a credible and accredited source.

Stay safe and remember that prevention makes you stronger in front of any emergency!

Prepared by:

Dr. Laura Elena Tepelus, Occupational Medicine Specialist,                                              Occupational and Preventive Medicine Department

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