Public Health

Ohio County Unveils New Functional-Needs Registry

Allen County's new online registry will help first responders pinpoint people with functional needs in the event of an emergency.

Corpus Christi, Texas, firefighter assists a resident with special needs
A Corpus Christi, Texas, firefighter assists a resident with special needs into a bus that will take her and her family to a shelter in San Antonio in advance of Hurricane Ike's landfall in 2008. Photo courtesy of Patsy Lynch/FEMA

A new online registry will help first responders pinpoint people with functional needs in the event of an emergency.

ReadyAllenCounty.org went live on March 17 and will get an extra push in the community from Allen County Public Health and Allen County Emergency Management Agency, the two agencies responsible for the site.

Individuals can register themselves, or friends, family members and caregivers can register others. Also, organizations, such as nursing facilities or home health agencies can register entire client or resident rosters, Allen County Public Health Director of Emergency Response Tom Berger said.

Registration is voluntary.

"The program will be only as good as we can get people to register," Berger said. "The big struggle is getting buy-in and making sure it's regularly updated."

The grant that helps fund Berger's position through Centers for Disease Control and Prevention requires that the county identify its functional needs population and develop a plan to care for them in the event of an emergency. Allen County Public Health used a $14,700 CDC grant to develop the website.

"We needed a way to effectively respond to people who are unable to receive, understand or act upon emergency protective orders," Berger said.

The site doesn't take the place of individual preparedness, Berger said. People still should be able to take care of themselves for three days, and think about how family members would contact each other, find a safe place and respond to different situations. Information for disaster planning is available through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, at emergency.cdc.gov.

Allen County's three hospitals, skilled nursing facilities and the Allen County chapter of the American Red Cross had input to the site, Berger said.

People can list their functional or other special need. The information includes address, emergency contact, physician and medical information, special needs for an evacuation, medical equipment required, language spoken and service animals. The information is private and used only in the event of an emergency.

The website geo-codes information, Berger said. For example, say emergency crews respond to a train derailment with a chemical spill and must evacuate within a radius of the accident. Responders can highlight the information on a map and know who needs help leaving their homes, and be better prepared to move someone who uses a wheelchair, requires dialysis or has a service dog for a sight impairment.

When agencies and facilities register, they include a population census and information about the physical space such as "self-sustainment" information — how long clients or residents could take care of themselves with food supply, heating or cooling, medication, etc. They'll also list equipment and vehicles, in the event that their facility isn't affected but they could supply something such as a van to help move others, Berger said.

The site is maintained in the cloud and is secure, Berger said. Information is kept current for one year automatically and then archived. It also can search for duplicates, Berger said, in the event a person is registered by a home health provider and a family member, for example.

(c)2014 The Lima News (Lima, Ohio)

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