Shaida Hossein goes through emergency preparedness kits piece by piece as she does with every JFS client. Then she follows up with questions and crisis scenarios. What would you do during a grease fire, windstorm or earthquake?
Having a flashlight for power outages or a small supply of water on hand for emergencies shouldn’t be a luxury. That’s why JFS is providing emergency preparedness kits, along with readiness training, to clients with persistent mental illness or cognitive disabilities.
Since April of 2016, the SAJD Supported Living Program (SLP) staff have customized kits for clients who are living independently. It has been a critical safety step, especially for those who have JFS as their only local contact. “It’s a unique service that JFS is able to provide,” said Hossein, SLP Community Engagement Specialist. “JFS really sees the kits as a necessity for our clients. We want them to feel comfortable and competent in handling emergency situations until we can get to them.”
All of the kits come with flashlights, battery-powered radios, basic first aid items and three-days’ worth of clean water, zip-lock bags to keep important documents dry and handy, among other necessities. Additions may include items like waterproof matches or coolers for those who have medication that needs to stay cold. The kits are in backpacks, making them easy to carry and move with if needed.
Stickers are also given to clients who have medication. The stickers can be placed in windows as well as on refrigerators and coolers where medication is stored. These are known as Vial of Life stickers that notify emergency responders when someone has important medication.
Hossein has been managing the emergency preparedness kit program since she came to JFS last year. She and SLP staff have delivered about 21 kits to clients so far. More kits will be assembled and taken to clients as needed, Hossein said. It’s all part of SLP’s mission to bring hope and a higher quality of life to the people this program serves.
Each kit is customized to meet the specific needs of clients. A blind client’s bag has braille instructions. Some clients don’t get matches. A client who is a visual learner or may have difficulty with memory gets illustrated instructions.
While JFS provides kits for clients, staff don’t just hand over backpacks and expect clients to prepare themselves. They discuss multiple emergency situations and ask questions to help prepare clients. Hossein recalled one client who didn’t at first understand he should stay inside during an earthquake to avoid falling limbs or downed power lines. “He didn’t realize that power lines are still dangerous, even when the power is out in his home,” Hossein said.
Now, when the ground quakes, lights flicker or cooking mishaps leads to kitchen fires, JFS clients will be more prepared and ready to care for themselves until help arrives.
This project was made possible through the generosity of Price Philanthropies and the Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle.
By Rachel Anne Seymour
Rachel is a trail-running dog owner and the Marketing and Communication Coordinator for JFS. She has previously worked as a multimedia journalist for newspapers throughout the Midwest and Western Washington.