Wildfire Realities

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(Our friend Jim Piper, RN, N6MED, has been volunteering for disaster duty at the Northern California wildfires and sends us a report on his activities and thoughts on preparedness. We thank Jim for this contribution.)

At 58 after a long career in Silicon Valley, I returned to school to a major career change as an RN in 2008. Training and some field experience as an EMT in volunteer venues shaped my approach to nursing in acute care. (My microbiology pre-requisite to RN school has also influenced my belief that we face epidemics and pandemics as our greatest risks for widespread disaster.)

I have held an Amateur Radio license (Ham) since 1993 with an interest in emergency communications. I have a special interest in emergency & disaster preparedness for which I have trained extensively. I retired in April this year and am keeping moving through volunteering with the American Red Cross as a Disaster Health Volunteer and liaison between the Red Cross Capitol Region Chapter and the amateur radio community. I am also a member of federal Disaster Medical Assistance Team CA-11 in Sacramento, CA.

I very recently returned from staffing the Red Cross shelter in Mt. Shasta for the Boles-Weed fire. (The town of Weed, CA is nearly adjacent to Mt. Shasta in northern CA and on Interstate 5 as it transits the Siskiyou Mountains.) I had not seen the fire impact area directly, however I did see and interact with those directly affected.

The folks in Weed had literally minutes to evacuate their homes because the fire spread so quickly. Residents affected by the King fire (Eldorado County, CA roughly adjacent to and north of Lake Tahoe) had the luxury of a bit more time. Yet another wildland fire started yesterday along Hwy Interstate 80 at Applegate, CA (approx 35 mi east of Sacramento). Those affected by this fire had only a few minutes to evacuate.

Despite our best intentions to prepare for disasters, it is just too easy to become complacent because all appears good: the sun is shining, the weather is mild, traffic flows as usual on the interstate, the trains run without incident, the earth is still. Then the SHTF and a Sheriff’s Deputy comes knocking on your door telling you that you must leave now!

For me, the fires hopefully are a renewed wake up call to recheck my home and my get-out-of-dodge go bags – and I volunteer for several disaster preparedness organizations! Notwithstanding Dr. Alton and Nurse Amy’s excellent advice for disaster survival planning, from my personal direct contact with Red Cross client, I am a born again believer in what I need for the short(er) term. As a gentle reminder about what should be in our WTSHTF bags, include extra eyeglasses if we wear them, medications (30 day supply), durable medical goods, consumable medical supplies (e.g., glucometer test strips, oxygen tanks, sanitary supplies for certain, specific medical conditions, etc.). And, don’t forget what you will need for your pets. The Red Cross can help get medications and such other goods replaced, but likely not quickly enough to meet an urgent need.

Nota Bene: I recommend a plan to evacuate to somewhere else other than a shelter. ARC shelters are pretty basic: communal housing on cots and essential sustenance. Near last resort, really. However, American Red Cross shelters are excellent places to get help to replace lost meds or durable med goods, or get various levels of help from social services without checking in as a “temporary resident.” Take your time to read Doom and Bloom to prepare for a major disaster (and you are preparing,else you wouldn’t be reading this post and the other excellent material and advice available here on these web pages).

I admit to being shameless if any of this appears to be a subtle or not-so-subtle commercial for the Red Cross, but, because I have witnessed and have personally been able to help folks under the American Red Cross banner, I know what it can do.

Now to go recheck my own get-out-of-dodge bag …

Jim, RN, N6MED
Volunteer, ARC Disaster Health Services

jim piper
Jim Piper, R.N., N6MED

Hey, don’t forget to check out our entire line of quality medical kits and individual supplies at store.doomandbloom.net. Also, our Book Excellence Award-winning 700-page SURVIVAL MEDICINE HANDBOOK: THE ESSENTIAL GUIDE FOR WHEN HELP IS NOT ON THE WAY is now available in black and white on Amazon and in color and color spiral-bound versions at store.doomandbloom.net.

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