By: Dr Thomas Kaiser
MOST OF us have been concerned about the violent burglaries that have occurred lately. As some of the victims are patients of our practice, I would like to share my suggestions for emergency procedures in the home with you.
In my experience, emergency situations in the Algarve can often be complicated by three factors:
• People involved are foreigners to the country and do not have a perfect command of Portuguese.
• People often live in remote rural places where access is difficult and directions are hard to provide.
• Emergency procedures are not thought in advance.
The plan, in case of an emergency like a fire, medical emergency, accident or crime, should be the following:
• Decide quickly if you can handle the situation on your own.
• If the answer is “no”, call for help – the telephone number for all emergencies in Portugal is 112.
Store the number in all your phones.
Your call will be answered by an operator, tell him/her if you need the bombeiros – fire service, ambulância – medical help or policia – police.
The help the emergency services can provide for you is reliant on the quality of information you can give them. If you don’t speak Portuguese try slow English.
Have an emergency notepad with the most common phrases needed in emergencies near the phone.
Give exact information, such as: who you are, where you live, your contact number, what has happened, how many people are involved and what you think you need.
If you have people on hand who can help, send somebody to meet the emergency service at a meeting point that is easy to find.
Always follow the golden rule: Safety first – a badly injured first aider is in nobody’s interest.
This, as you know, is not really my field of expertise, but I have thought about this issue a lot and would suggest the following:
• Analyse your particular risk profile – are you at risk because you live in a big house in a luxury resort or because you live in an isolated rural area? Are you elderly?
• Think about where an intruder may enter.
• Install safety features you are comfortable with. An alarm that goes off every five minutes may scare you more than a burglar and annoy your neighbour. A panic button could be more what you need. Security services can give very useful advice in this matter.
• Go to your local police station and explain your concern. Ask them for advice. Provide them with a map of where your house is located if it is remote.
• Think of a tactic of how you can safely escape from your own house and get help. You have the advantage over an intruder as you know the location better.
I think forming neighbourhood watch schemes in the Algarve could have a big impact on our safety. I would like to encourage you to create your own. Organise a meeting with all the inhabitants in your area, discuss and analyse the situation in your patch.
Agree on a strategy for identifying suspicious activity or how to alert others if you are in need.
Most importantly, practise emergency procedures. Organise a day where you work through three scenarios: fire, medical emergency and burglary.
I thought it would be a good idea to organise a small conference, such as Safety in the Algarve where we could have presentations from experts and a forum discussion. I would very much like your feedback on this idea.
Dr. Thomas Kaiser
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