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The headline read “NOAA predicts a near-normal 2012 Atlantic hurricane season”  But what does normal mean?  Does normal mean you can relax or does normal mean you need to prepare as if the storm is heading your way.  I urge everyone reading this column to prepare for a hurricane, earthquake, tsunami, heart attack, fall, cut, allergic reaction or any other medical emergency today.  Make plans to handle any medical emergency that you may encounter.

Regardless of where you live, even if hurricanes do not affect your part of the world, medical emergencies happen every day.  Some medical emergencies we can plan and prepare.  Others medical emergencies are more difficult to predict but we can still make plans.  I can say with relative certainty that this month someone on a yacht will get cut, someone will fall, someone will get sick, someone will have chest pains, someone will have difficulty breathing, and unfortunately someone will die.  For many of these emergencies we can prepare ourselves with a good quality medical kit, a new Automated External Defibrillator (AED) with the new AHA guidelines and quality onboard CPR AED and First Aid training classes for all of the ship’s crew at least once every two years. 

Medical emergencies can often be tough to predict, but planning and preparation can help.  Below are a few natural disasters from the past decade.
* The tsunami in South Asia killed 226,408 people in December of 2004.
* The earthquake in Haiti killed 222,570 in January of 2010.
* The Cyclone in Nargis (formerly Burma) killed 138,336 in May of 2008.
* The heatwave that hit Europe in the summer of 2003 killed 72,210
* The earthquake and tsunami that hit Japan earlier this year killed more than 20,000.
*  In the United States, there have been  689 tornadoes reported in the U.S. in 2012 resulting in 63 deaths.

The above list is a partial listing of natural disasters that can kill hundreds, or even hundreds of thousands.  It does not include man made disasters such as war or acts of terrorism.  Every day we hear of acts of terror all over the world, in Mexico, in the Middle east, and even in the United States.  On September 11, 2001 2,977 victims killed at the World Trade Center, Pentagon and in Shanksville, Pennsylvania.

When disasters such as those listed above occur it can overwhelm local emergency medical services.  Under normal conditions, we can pick up the phone and dial 911 and within 8 to 12 minutes help arrives.  But during a major disaster help is not 8-12 minutes away.  In these cases you are the one providing emergency medical care.  My question for you, are you prepared?

Today I would like you to take a few minutes and think about how prepared you are for a disaster such as those listed above.  How prepared are you?  Do you have enough food and water?  Are your emergency medical first aid skills up to date.  If you were the victim, who around you has the proper training and skills necessary to treat you?  If you fell, and may have sustained a spinal injury, would they know how to properly move you?  If you were impaled with something, would they leave the item in, or pull it out?   If you were seizing, would they put a spoon in your mouth or leave you alone?  Each month I cover these topics and in each of my classes we train people the proper way to properly assist injured people.  If you don’t feel comfortable either in your skills or those around you, now is the time to learn.  Now is the time to schedule a class.

You have food, water and your CPR AED First Aid Skills are up to date, what’s next?  Do you have the right equipment and supplies to treat medical emergencies?  Do you have the right tools to protect yourself?  You need PPE – Personal Protective Equipment.  PPE which is gloves, glasses and a CPR barrier mask.  This protects you from bloodborne pathogens.  Next you will need to look at your emergency medical first aid kit.  Go through it.  Do you know what each item does?  Is everything up to date?

Now, let’s talk about your home and your family.  Are you and your family prepared for a medical emergency at home?  Do you have a good first aid kit in your house?  Is everyone at home trained in first aid?   What about your car?  Do you have a good medical kit in the car?  Gloves?  Eye protection?  What about your office?

For those living in areas that are prone to hurricanes and tornados now is the time to prepare.  You should start your disaster preparation by visiting my website www.HurricaneFirstAid.com for a listing of things you can do to prepare.  If you live in other areas without hurricanes you are probably at risk for floods, tornadoes, earthquakes and other natural and manmade disasters.  Plan today.  Remember, failing to plan is a plan for failure.

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