Disasters Don’t Wait. Be Prepared!

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Did you know that National Preparedness Month is observed each September to raise awareness about the importance of preparing for disasters and emergencies? This year, Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) Ready Campaign theme is “Take Control in 1, 2, 3”. Though preparedness is for everyone, this year’s campaign focuses on preparing older adults and their caregivers for all kinds of hazards including floods, fires, earthquakes, and more. Several factors make older adults more vulnerable to the impacts of disasters, especially if they are living alone, are low-income, have a disability, or live in rural areas.

If you are an older adult or there is someone in your life who is (like a neighbor, friend, or family member), here are some tips and resources for preparing for the unexpected.

1. Assess your needs.

An important first step in preparedness is understanding the risks you may encounter – big and small. Knowing what you may face will help you assess your needs and get you started on your preparedness journey. Learn about the types of disasters that could happen in your community, sign up for alerts and warnings, and think about what needs you have.

  • Do you have any medical conditions or dietary restrictions that require specific care or medication?
  • Do you have mobility challenges or need assistance with transportation if there was an evacuation?
  • Do you have medical equipment that requires electricity?

Think about how to prepare for your needs to be met and make sure your loved ones and caregivers are aware of your plan.

2. Make a plan.

Now that you’ve assessed your needs, it’s time to make a plan. Because disasters and emergencies can strike with no warning, it is vital to have a plan and be prepared. It is also essential to create a support network. Though a support network can look different for everyone, it might consist of family, friends, caregivers, and neighbors. Include these people in your planning and practice with them. Make sure at least one person in your support network has a spare key to your home, knows where your emergency kit is, and knows how to use lifesaving equipment or administer medicine. Additional things to consider when making a plan include:

  • What is your communication plan for notifying loved ones about the emergency?
  • Do you need transportation assistance or additional travel time if you need to evacuate? Identify an accessible evacuation route and shelter and plan for transportation assistance if needed in advance.
  • Don’t forget your pets or service animals. Not all shelters accept pets, so plan for alternatives and consider asking friends or loved ones outside of your immediate area if they can help.

3. Build a kit.

After an emergency, you may need to survive on your own for several days. Make sure you have your own food, water, and other essential supplies to last for several days. Some important things to consider including in your emergency kit as an older adult include:

  • Medicine and medical supplies (a week-long supply, if possible)
  • Assistive devices (hearing aids, mobility aids, eyeglasses) and spare batteries
  • Care plan – a list of prescriptions, dosage information, and medical providers
  • Important documents (identification, insurance cards, wills, power of attorney documents, deeds, etc.)
  • Contact list (people you want or need to be connected to during an emergency)

Emergency planning can look different for everyone. Check out this preparedness guide and emergency kit checklist for additional tips, ideas, and worksheets. Take time today to assess your needs, make a plan, and build a kit!

Additional preparedness resources and information:

FEMA Disaster Preparedness Guide for Older Adults

Plan Ahead for Disasters | Ready.gov

Older Adults | Ready.gov

Older Adults Emergency Preparedness | American Red Cross

Preparing Makes Sense for Older Americans – YouTube

It’s Bat Time of Year Again!

Reading Time: 4 minutes

But, they’re sooo cute! Backyard wildlife really can be full of cute-looking creatures. I mean, check these charming ones out:

Here in Skagit County, we can potentially spot all of these critters in our living environment at different times. And, since all of these mammals can carry diseases, the general rule is please, DO NOT feed them and avoid direct contact with these cuties, especially if they look injured or sick.

I could end this blog here and feel pretty good about it, but I’d like to focus a little more on bats and what to do if you find one in or near your home!

If you find a live bat in your home and are sure no one in your house has had any contact with the bat:

  • Don’t Panic: Stay calm and avoid direct contact with the bat. Healthy bats normally avoid contact with humans and other animals.
  • Isolate the Bat: If possible, confine the bat to a single room by closing all doors and windows except for one leading outside. This will make it easier for professionals to capture or release the bat.
  • Protect Yourself: Wear gloves and use a container like a plastic tub or a cardboard box to safely capture the bat if it’s not flying. Approach the bat slowly and gently place the container over it. Then, slide a piece of cardboard under the container to trap the bat inside. Secure the container with tape if necessary.
  • Release the Bat: If the bat is unharmed and you are certain the bat did not have contact with any person in your household, you can release it outside during the evening. Bats are nocturnal and will be more active at night. Simply open the container outside and let the bat fly away.
  • Bat-Proof Your Home: To prevent bats from entering your home, make sure your home is properly sealed. Check for any gaps or openings in walls, roofs, and windows that bats could use to enter. More information on bat-proofing your home can be found here.

If you think you’ve been exposed to a bat (had a bite, scratch or other contact with mucous membrane, wound or non-intact skin):

  • Rabies Concerns: Rabies is a viral disease that infects the central nervous system (brain and spinal cord). All warm-blooded mammals, including humans, are susceptible to rabies. If there was any chance of exposure to the bat (like if you woke up and found it in your room), it’s important to capture the bat for rabies testing if you can do so safely and without direct contact. Wear leather gloves and use a container or box to trap the bat. While only 3-10 % of bats submitted for testing are found to have the rabies virus, testing can prevent the need for post exposure prophylaxis if the bat does not have rabies.  If the bat tests positive, then there is time to intervene in the disease progression and provide prophylaxis to exposed people.
  • Wash the Affected Area: If you had direct contact with the bat (e.g., a bite or scratch), wash the affected area thoroughly with soap and water for at least five minutes.
  • Seek Medical Attention: Contact a healthcare professional to evaluate the situation. They will determine whether you need to receive post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) for rabies. PEP usually involves a series of rabies vaccinations.
  • Contact Health Authorities: Report the incident to your local health department (for Skagit County Public Health call (360) 416-1500).  You will receive guidance on next steps, including whether the bat should be tested for rabies.
  • Rabies Testing: If the bat is captured, the local health department will provide instructions for submitting the bat for rabies testing.
  • Rabies Vaccination: Rabies is preventable through vaccination. If you have an occupation or activity that will place you at high risk of bat exposure, your healthcare provider might recommend pre-exposure rabies vaccinations to provide protection in case of future exposure.

How to protect your pets from being exposed to rabies from bats:

  • Vaccinate your pets against rabies. Rabies vaccination of pets is required in Washington State. If you are uncertain of your pet’s vaccination status talk to your veterinarian and ensure you keep your pet up to date with booster doses.
  • Provide supervision during early morning and evening outings. Bats are most active at dusk, night, and pre-dawn. If you’re outside with your pet during dusk or dawn, supervise them closely to prevent them from interacting with any bats they might encounter.
  • Bat-proof your home. To prevent bats from entering your home and potentially interacting with your pet, make sure your home is properly sealed. Check for any gaps or openings in walls, roofs, and windows that bats could use to enter. More information on bat-proofing your home can be found here.
  • Pet Restraints. If you’re in an area where bats are active, keep your pet on a leash or under close control when outdoors to minimize the chance of interactions with bats.

Remember, even though this blog has had unsavory moments, most bats are completely healthy and vital to our Pacific Northwest ecosystem. They eat insects, helping to control pests. Bat droppings (called guano) are a source of nitrogen-rich fertilizers. Bats also play a role in pollination, which aids our agricultural economy here in Skagit County.

Tips for Prioritizing Your Wellness This Summer

Reading Time: 4 minutes

As humans, sometimes we are so busy thinking about the next thing on our to do list that we often forget to prioritize wellness – not just our physical wellness, but the mental, community, social, and spiritual domains of wellness as well. Neglecting these domains can take a toll on our quality of life and overall health. So, what can you do to improve your overall wellness? Here are some ideas to get you started:

Physical Wellness
One of the more commonly considered areas of wellness is physical wellness. The first thing that may come to mind when you think of physical wellness is physical activity. Thankfully, we live in a beautiful county with a vast number of trails to explore by walking, jogging, or biking. Our local parks and recreation offices offer a variety of physical wellness activities and events, so stop by or look them up online to learn more. Sleep is another important part of our physical wellness. We often use screens before bed, but what may seem like a harmless habit can, in actuality, negatively impact your sleep. Consider avoiding screens at least one hour before bedtime and try reading a book, taking a bath, or doing some other type of relaxing activity instead. A diet full of fruits and vegetables is also essential for optimal physical wellness. Challenge yourself to try a new recipe every week that includes at least one fruit or vegetable. Need some inspiration? Check out MyPlate for some easy, low-cost recipes.

Mental Wellness
How we think, feel, and act determines how we handle stress, relate to others, and make choices about our overall well-being.  Practicing self-care and promoting mental health can look different for everyone. Maybe it’s taking a bath, spending time with your pet, calling a friend, connecting with nature, or simply taking a deep breath. Mental health challenges are common and real, and help is available, though sometimes it is hard to find. If you are struggling with a mental health issue, know that you are not alone. Being clear and honest about your needs and asking for help is a sign of strength, not weakness – we all go through challenges and need help every now and then!

Community Wellness
The Skagit Valley is a magical place that offers so many unforgettable experiences! Yet with everything at our fingertips on our mobile devices – it’s easy to miss opportunities to go outside and explore new places or attend community events. Need some ideas? Check out www.visitskagitvalley.com for all kinds of events, things to do, places to explore, and so much more!

Social Wellness
Did you know that the Surgeon General just released a report on the epidemic of loneliness and isolation? In a time when we are more connected than ever before through virtual means, there is no substitute for face-to-face interaction. Human connectedness is essential for healthy well-being. Social wellness involves building healthy, nurturing, and supportive relationships and developing a sense of connection, belonging, and a well-developed support system. It can be as simple as going on a walk in the park with a family member, sharing a meal together, or going to the movies with a friend. Instead of sending a text, try to video chat or call someone you’ve been thinking about, and make plans to see each other in person if you can. Want to learn something new? Join a group focused on a hobby like reading or painting and make friends with similar interests.

Spiritual Wellness
Spiritual wellness can look different for everyone. The goal of improving our spiritual wellness is to become more in tune with our surroundings and our inner creativity. It may or may not involve religious activities; it could involve going out in nature, learning a new skill, practicing yoga, connecting with a faith community, or volunteering. Focusing on your spiritual wellness may help you expand your sense of purpose in life and understand the values and beliefs that guide your actions.

Participate in the Wellness Challenge
Are you ready to focus on your overall well-being but feel like you may need more guidance and ideas? Check out our Skagit Wellness Challenge for many ideas on how to improve your wellness. If you choose to participate, you will be entered to win a prize and may even end up finding new hobbies or meeting new people in the community!

Bookmark our Healthy Eating Active Living web page, as we will be adding more content in the coming weeks.