Disaster Preparedness: Flooding
In my community of Austin, TX, there aren’t many natural disasters that we could possibly be faced with. The most hazardous disaster Austin is at risk for is flooding. Austin has several bodies of water that flow through the city and surrounding areas in addition to lots of hills and forestation. Austin is also located in Central Texas, an area known for being close to and below sea level in many areas. The combination of those factors creates a perfect recipe for a flooding disaster. Additionally, there are numerous situations where people can become infected with illnesses because of being exposed to contaminated waters during flooding (McClung, 2017). Flood victims can be exposed to Legionella, Pseudomonas, Giardia, and many other gastrointestinal illnesses. The nurse can assist with disaster preparedness by helping to educate the community on how to protect their health during exposure to environmental hazards.
The Nursing Response
As with all other healthcare needs, prevention is the first step the community nurse should take to prepare their community for potential flooding. Collaboration among multiple agencies is necessary and requires a great amount of complexity given the number of different organizations that will be involved (Rafferty-Semon, 2017). Nurses offer unique skill sets in managing emergencies. Examples include proper assessment, priority recognition, communication, and collaboration skills. Competent nurses can also use these skills to make significant decisions under duress (Rafferty-Semon, 2017).
Because state and national funding is limited for practicing disaster plans on a community level, the nurse can be most effective by connecting community members to the resources available during a disaster. Austin has several different options that offer the same emergency services to the public. Austin is within Travis County and I can direct the community to the county website where they can find emergency planning information. This website tells the public where they can find updated weather forecasts, road blocks and closures due to flood waters, and contact numbers for the community members to relay non-emergency weather damage. This website will also assist the public with creating an emergency plan for their family and flood survival kits. My community also has a disaster relief network where I, in addition to other interested parties, can train and get certified in disaster preparation. I would highly encourage all community members to take this sort of training so that we can support one another during flooding as first responders are likely to be swamped with calls for help. Austin has even gone so far as to have a disaster preparedness conference this past weekend to train and raise awareness in the community.
I would also need to prepare my community for the health risks associated with flood waters. As flood waters are contaminated with several diseases and creatures, the public must steer clear of them as much as possible. People can’t see what lies beneath flood waters because they aren’t clear. As the community nurse, I would educate my community about these factors and stress if flood waters enter their homes, they need to evacuate immediately, and they will have to get rid of any items that were under water as the bacteria will remain on them. Each family will also need to be educated on the need for an evacuation plan if their area is ordered to evacuate. When people choose to stay in their homes during a flooding disaster, they put themselves and first responders at great risk should they need an emergency rescue. Lastly, I would stress the importance of a well prepared first aid kit. Any wounds should be covered to prevent infection from flood waters. Patients taking prescription medications will need to put their medicines in a zip lock back and keep it close to them until the flooding disaster has resolved. I would highly recommend all community members with major illnesses to evacuate before any potential flooding as they will be the highest risk patients that aren’t in a facility with healthcare providers. I’m confident that using education and prevention methods will prepare my community for a flooding disaster.
I personally feel that my community is well equipped to handle a flooding disaster. Austin has faced several flooding incidents in the past, so most community members know what to expect in these situations. For those members new to the area or those that have never experienced flooding, Austin has many resources they can use for information. There are several websites that explain the necessary preparation steps in addition to where victims can find resources. Additionally, those interested in offering support and assistance to victims can find training and certification programs. While dealing with a flood is a difficult task, I can prepare my community to minimize the losses in the community.