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People with Special Healthcare Needs Encouraged to Enroll in Emergency Registry

In the wake of last week's destructive windstorm, and in advance of the winter weather events to come, the Rhode Island Department of Health (RIDOH) is urging people with special healthcare needs to enroll in the Rhode Island Special Needs Emergency Registry (RISNER).

RISNER allows local and state emergency officials to better prepare for and respond to Rhode Islanders with disabilities, chronic conditions, and other special healthcare needs during emergencies. Enrolling in RISNER, however, does not guarantee assistance. It is used by emergency responders when making decisions when responding to emergencies.

"Preparedness is one of the keys to remaining healthy and safe during an emergency or natural disaster," said Director of Health Nicole Alexander-Scott, MD, MPH. "For people with special healthcare needs, enrolling in RISNER is a critical preparedness step that can help emergency responders get you the vital health services, care, and assistance you need, should a disaster strike."

Anyone with a special healthcare need can enroll in RISNER. Examples of people who are enrolled in RISNER include: People with mobility issues (e.g., use a wheelchair, walker, or cane); people who are visually impaired, blind, hard of hearing, or Deaf; people on home oxygen, respirators, ventilators, dialysis, or pacemakers, and people who are insulin dependent; and People who use assistive animals or prostheses.

To enroll in RSINER, people can either call 401-222-5960 or visit www.health.ri.gov/emregistry. From this webpage people can enroll in either English or Spanish, and a paper enrollment form can also be printed for those who would prefer to mail in their information. If someone cannot complete the enrollment form for him or herself, a family member or caregiver can enroll that individual. Strict confidentiality is always maintained. Only emergency management and response agencies have access to the information in RISNER.

RISNER is managed by RIDOH's Center for Emergency Preparedness and Response (CEPR). This week, letters are being sent to current RISNER enrollees reminding them to update their information. Enrollees are also being encouraged to talk to neighbors and friends about RISNER to increase awareness among Rhode Islanders with special healthcare needs.

Additional emergency preparedness steps that all Rhode Islanders should take

Make a Plan During an emergency, it is important to know how to reach family members. Designate an emergency contact each family member can call to let them know they're safe. Gather and make copies of contact and medical information for each family member. Make a plan for your pets. Pick meeting spots and make sure everyone is familiar with evacuation routes.

Make a Kit Your kit should include a flashlight and extra batteries, a first-aid kit, food and water (non-perishable food, and one gallon of drinking water per person per day), essential medicines, and copies of important documents stored in waterproof containers.

Power outages If the power goes out, you can store food outside safely when the outside temperature is below 45F. Food can also keep for several hours in the refrigerator or freezer if the doors remain closed. Most food requiring refrigeration can be kept safely in a closed refrigerator for about 4 hours. A full freezer will keep the temperature for about 48 hours.

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