One of the ironies of our increasingly connected world is that many of our closest friends need not live anywhere near us. Facebook, Twitter, email, and texting have allowed us to interact at a distance as never before.
And during a disaster, that can be both a problem, and a blessing.
The blessing is that since many disasters are local, if you are hit by a tornado, or an earthquake, or a flood . . . having friends outside the impact area could be a lifesaver.
The downside, of course, is that increasing distance makes getting direct assistance from a friend during an emergency more difficult.
In 2007 I began to promote the idea of each of us having, and being, `Flu Buddies’. I fleshed out the idea in a 2008 blog called Lifelines In A Pandemic.
A `Flu Buddy’ is simply someone you can call if you get sick, who will then check on you every day, make sure you have the medicines you need (including fetching Tamiflu if appropriate), help care for you if needed, and who can call for medical help if your condition deteriorates.
Those people who care for others, like single parents, also need to consider who will take care of their dependents if they are sick.
Like myself, nearly 1 person in 10 in the United States lives alone. That’s roughly 27 million people who are particularly vulnerable during an epidemic. Add in millions of single parents taking care of small children, and you have a large number of people with no in-house lifeline in a medical emergency or disaster.
With a nasty enterovirus making the rounds this fall (see Enterovirus D-68 (HEV-D68) Update), it’s not such a bad idea to revive the `flu buddy’ concept for this winter.
After the pandemic receded I reworked the idea into a more generic `Disaster Buddy’ concept in a blog called In An Emergency, Who Has Your Back?.
While we tend to think of disasters as large scale events, it doesn’t require a pandemic, earthquake, or hurricane to put you in perilous straits.
A house fire, car accident, sudden illness, or some other more limited emergency can overwhelm as well, and having a pre-existing support system makes a lot of sense.
And the best way I know is by arranging to have (and to be) a `Disaster Buddy’.
A `Disaster Buddy’ is simply someone you have prearranged that you can call on during a crisis, and who in turn, can call on you if they need help.
It only works if it is reciprocal.
Frankly, having (and being) a `Disaster Buddy’ to friends, neighbors, and relatives should be part of everyone’s family disaster plan.
No one likes to impose on a friend, of course. But if you’ve already established a `disaster buddy’ relationship – one that is fair and reciprocal – it shouldn’t be considered an imposition.
In the parlance of paramedics, cops, firefighters and the military . . . “you have their back, and in return, they have yours.”
It is a simple concept, but one that needs to be talked out in advance, not simply assumed.
While some people invest in a stockpile of freeze dried food, or buy the latest survival gadgets, and think themselves prepared . . . having friends you can really depend on in an emergency is the greatest prep of all.
To make it easier on your disaster or `flu’ buddy, make sure you carry some kind of medical history or ID card, with instructions on what medications you are taking, any allergies, and emergency contact information.
I addressed that issue in a blog called Those Who Forget Their History . . . . A few excerpts (but follow the link to read the whole thing):
Since you can’t always know, in advance, when you might need medical care it is important to carry with you some kind of medical history at all times. It can tell doctors important information about your history, medications, and allergies when you can’t.
Many hospitals and pharmacies provide – either free, or for a very nominal sum – folding wallet medical history forms with a plastic sleeve to protect them. Alternatively, there are templates available online.
I’ve scanned the one offered by one of our local hospitals below. It is rudimentary, but covers the basics.
We are truly only prepared as our friends, families, and surrounding community are. There are roles to play for everyone, including civic organizations, schools, and church.
Now - before a disaster occurs - is the time to sit down and talk to your friends, family, and neighbors about how you will help one another during a personal or community wide crisis.
For more potentially life saving preparedness information, I invite you to visit:
AMERICAN RED CROSS http://www.redcross.org/