Natural Disaster Preparedness for Seniors
Whether it’s hurricanes, tornadoes, blizzards, floods, wildfires or earthquakes….plan ahead!
Create an Emergency Network…
Of family, neighbors, friends, professional caregivers, law enforcement, rescue workers and other relatives to assist you in an emergency. Discuss your plan and make sure everyone knows their responsibilities and how to backup each other. Inform your employer that you may have to leave quickly in emergency conditions to take care of an elderly or disabled family member.
Develop a Map of Resources
Primary and backup local resources like emergency shelters, pharmacies and dialysis centers. Plan multiple locations and routes (in case roads are blocked) for evacuation and know where resources are available in those locations. If evacuating, don’t delay! Delaying your departure could leave you stranded as roadways become grid locked. During an evacuation, families may be separated. Establish a meeting place. If a mandatory evacuation is ordered, designate a familiar location or family member’s home as a meeting point. Family members should also be sure to have an updated photo of their elderly relative. The front of most telephone directories include information on Emergency Operations Centers in your community.
Emergency Info Package
An emergency information pack would include basic medical information (medications, drug allergies, medical ailments, etc.), copies of prescriptions, contact information for your family & doctors, medical power of attorney or living will, proof of insurance, social security documents and identification.
Your Evacuation Pack
Put together an evacuation pack. If your elderly loved one must leave their residence, they should be prepared to take care of their basic needs for at least 72 hours. Do not assume that shelters have supplies and equipment. They will need basic food and water, medications and medical supplies (walker, hearing aid, oxygen, prosthetics, etc.), a blanket, pillow, and air mattress, personal hygiene items and extra clothing. Some areas do provide Special Needs Shelters for those who are too sick for regular shelters but do not require hospitalization. This would include those on electrically powered equipment or those with severe respiratory conditions such as asthma. Those with limited abilities and mobility issues are candidates as well.
Refill all Rx
Refill all necessary prescriptions and have portable versions of medical equipment. Be sure to have an ample supply of all daily medications. These refills may save their lives, or buy enough time to find treatment at a health care facility. Purchase a travel cold pack if you use insulin or other medication that need to be kept cool. Have available smaller or portable medical equipment like oxygen tanks and be sure your walker or wheel chair can be folded to fit in a car. Consider back up power supplies for life supporting medical equipment.
If Needed, Arrange a Caregiver
Families with elderly or disabled relatives should arrange for a professional or volunteer caregiver to check on them in the event of an emergency. Choose an agency with experience who can assist. Seniors who have assistance are more likely to remain comfortable during a trying time.
Prepare Your Home
Remove obstacles around the house that may slow a hasty evacuation or cause injury. There should be 2 easily accessible exits. Do your best to assure no flying debris may come through windows by installing safety shutters or plywood. Remove all loose outside items such as potted plants & lawn furniture that may become projectiles in high winds. If you own a swimming pool, this is an excellent place to store non-metallic outdoor furniture until after the storm passes. You must be prepared for the loss of power and water. If evacuating, unplug all electrical devices and appliances. Damage can occur not when the power goes out, but when it comes back on. If you are not going to evacuate, fill your bath tub and any clean/sterile plastic containers with water to provide you with some source of water should the local water service be turned off.
Stock Up on Supplies
Have extra food, water & ice on hand. You will need a 3 day supply. Stock up on canned goods, non-perishable food, and, most importantly, bottled water in case their home is inaccessible to first responders, or stores are closed or have empty shelves. Be sure to have at least two (2) flashlights and plenty of spare batteries to use should there be no power for a prolonged period of time.
Stay in Touch
If possible have a cell phone and inform all relevant individuals of the cell phone num•ber in advance of an evacuation. Always be sure to have a portable radio with plenty of extra batteries to stay informed on current conditions. Prior to any disaster, become familiar with your local AM radio stations that would provide the best source of information to you prior to and during the event.
Know Your Local Resources
Familiarize yourself and family with local disaster resources and procedures before disaster strikes. Most areas do provide services on a local level like evacuation shelters, sand bag distribution centers and a host of other services. Understand the role of the local Salvation Army, American Red Cross, State Disaster Management and FEMA.
Be prepared for a delay in returning home. If you have been evacuated, it is possible that you may not be able return and reoccupy your home once the event has ended. Damage to your home, flooding, loss of utility services and police activity may prevent you from moving back. Have a relocation plan in advance with friends and family.