Opal and I live in Nova Scotia. If there’s one thing Easterners really get into, it’s talking about , preparing for , and experiencing hurricane season. It must be that inbred Canadian love of imminent danger and disaster arising from weather conditions. We are now in the midst of Hurricane season. Most hurricanes do not reach us, but we have had some over the years that did make landfall (Hurricane Juan, for example) and many tropical and sub tropical storms which can pack a mean punch. For people with disabilities, there are significant challenges involved in preparing for bad weather. Just like the boy scouts, my motto is, ‘Be Prepared’. The Nova Scotia Disabled Persons Commission wrote a guide for PWD called “Are You Ready?”. Voiceprint released a CD version of the guide. It is full of helpful hints for PWD and seniors. Other organizations in all jurisdictions have similar resources available. Consult the web sites or call the Red Cross, the Independent Living Resource Centre, Canadian Food Inspection Agency, National Organization on Disability, Emergency Management Nova Scotia, VON (Vial of Life Program) or any EMO in your area.
Opal is a hurricane veteran. She was raised in North Carolina and was evacuated more than once, including during Katrina. Service animals, by the way ARE allowed into shelters (pets are not). I had no Guide dog at the time Hurricane Juan blew through Halifax some years ago. I do recall my cat being terrified, especially when one of our windows blew in. The power was out for five days. The streets were dangerous and impassible because of fallen trees and power lines. I can’t imagine what it would have been like to experience Juan with a guide dog. In the last 12 months, Opal and I have dealt with bad weather, including tropical storms packing 120km hour winds and 150 ml of rain. It’s important to listen to weather forecasts. It is helpful when planning your dog’s opportunities to relieve, because you can’t expect your 60 pound animal to be willing and able to squat in a gale (there’s always the bathtub…grin).
Plan your strategy for an upcoming storm. Obviously, you must have enough food and water on hand, for yourself and your animals. You should have a pre-determined disaster plan for home, work or school. Create a communications and evacuation plan. and develop a support network of people. Your service animal’s kit must include food, dish, labeled medication, identification, papers, toy, bone, play collar, small blanket. Fill your bathtub with water. Make sure you have the following on hand: non perishable food, water, batteries, portable or crank radio, medication supply, important papers including a list or audio tape of phone numbers and insurance information, first aid kit, warm clothing, sleeping bags, and items specific to your disability. Remember that phones and power may go out (have mechanical can opener). There is often a lot of noise and confusion during building evacuation which makes it difficult for people who are blind who can no longer rely on familiar audio cues. Be familiar with your plan and practice regularly.
It’s not a good idea to use a land line when there is lightening ( My friend was knocked over while talking on the phone during a thunder storm as lightening hit the wires). Unplug stuff, particularly computers. Modems, monitors and so on, which can also become toast during a bad storm. On that cheery note, I am shutting down, unplugging and hunkering down as the weather begins to rage and we await the remnants of Hurricane Hannah.