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MEMA Home > Programs> Communication> News > Franklin County Extends a Helping Hand to Vulnerable Residents

Franklin County Extends a Helping Hand to Vulnerable Residents

 

March 3, 2008

 

A recent review of Franklin County’s emergency operations plan found a flaw. “We did not know where the vulnerable populations are in the county,” said Tim Hardy, the county’s emergency management director. An emergency situation can make someone already vulnerable even more so and that, according to Hardy, is a weakness in their operations plan that they are committed to overcoming.

To do that, they have started a program to identify and locate their vulnerable populations. “We’ve created a registration form for people with special needs,” said Sylvia Yeaton, special project director for Franklin County Emergency Management. The form, a simple, one page piece, asks for a name, street address, telephone number, cell phone, and the information for an emergency contact. It also asks if individuals have pets. “Many people are concerned about their pets,” Yeaton said. “With this, and our pet-friendly emergency shelters, pets will be taken care of along with them.”

The program is directed to persons who are dependent upon others for routine care; children under 18 without adult supervision; a person who is blind, hearing or mobility impaired; or a person needing assistance with medical care – perhaps dependent on equipment or medication. In addition, the form also targets persons requiring chemotherapy, dialysis, hospital bed care, etc. and persons requiring special mobility devices like wheelchairs or walkers. “Franklin County Emergency Management Agency wants to know whether you would need assistance in an emergency,” the form says. It is available at municipal offices, libraries, doctor’s offices, senior centers, senior housing complexes and elsewhere throughout the county.

Local non-profit community support agencies including Western Maine Community Action and Senior Plus have taken part in the initiative and helped to promote the program. “I would say that we’re really getting the message out,” Yeaton said. “We’ve met with different agencies, done a mailing, gone to elderly housing areas – we’ve gotten the information out.”

Though Hardy expected some reluctance from seniors and other vulnerable populations in participating in a self-declaration program like this, the county has already received more than 200 responses. “With groups like Senior Plus and Western Maine Community Action supporting this effort, it made it much easier,” Hardy said.

Yeaton said some people have been concerned about the confidentiality of the information provided, but she quickly assures them that it will be kept only in the emergency management office for emergency use.

The bottom of the form includes some emergency preparedness reminders. “Do you have emergency numbers near the phone? Do you have your medications ready to take with you?” Even if some individuals decide not to complete the form, Hardy and his team are happy that information is in their hands. “Even if they are not registered, this makes them stop and consider what they would have to do in an emergency,” Yeaton said. “It aids in their planning process.”

For many, this consideration is eye opening. “Some people believe nothing is going to happen in rural Franklin County,” Hardy said. “And they think that even if it does, they can just pick up the phone and someone will take care of it. We want to show them that might not always be the case – flooding has happened here. Sometimes people do not think of all of the scenarios.”

This program will not just help citizens to plan for disasters – the county will benefit too. Franklin County emergency managers and The Center for Community GIS (Geographic Information Systems), a Farmington-based organization dedicated to the local use and application of digital mapping technology, will plot the locations of vulnerable populations on an interactive electronic map. “If we have a situation, we can bring up that map and database and see where these populations are,” Hardy said. “It will also be available on a laptop for use in the field in emergencies.” Hardy expects the map component to be completed in March.

Franklin County Emergency Management Agency is also working to locate sponsors for a ‘File of Life’ program to provide first responders with information critical to their providing the best care. The File of Life card has areas to record personal information including medical conditions, drug allergies, emergency contact numbers, prescription information and other details. The card will attach magnetically to refrigerator doors, and a decal on a home entry door will alert responders that an individual participates in the program.

To register or request more information, contact Franklin County Emergency Management Agency at 778-5892 or email fncolepc@msn.com.

—Derek Mitchell

 

Contact:

Franklin County EMA
778-5892
fncolepc@msn.com

 

Last update: 07/20/10