Preparing for a Disaster

January 22, 2014 | Found In:  Aging

imagesNo matter where you live, disasters – whether natural or man-made – often strike quickly and unexpectedly; local officials and relief workers may not be able to reach you or your loved ones right away. Thus, knowing what to do before, during and after an emergency is incredibly important, especially for older adults. While individual needs and abilities may vary, every person can and should take basic steps to prepare for various disasters.

Make an Emergency Supply Kit
Plan to make it on your own for at least three days. Identify the resources you use on a daily basis and think about what you might do if they were limited or unavailable. Store the supplies in one or more easy-to-carry containers, such as a backpack or duffel bag, in an easily accessible location. Depending on your needs, your “Go Kit” may include:

  • Water (1 gallon/3.8 liters per person per day)
  • Non-perishable food (if you have canned food, include a can opener)
  • Battery-powered or hand crank radio (extra batteries)
  • Flashlight (extra batteries)
  • First aid kit
  • Blankets
  • One change of clothes and sturdy shoes
  • Whistle to signal for help
  • Dust mask to help filter potentially contaminated air
  • Plastic sheeting and duct tape to create a shelter-in-place
  • Moist towelettes, garbage bags and plastic ties for personal sanitation
  • Cash or traveler’s checks to purchase supplies
  • Any medications you take regularly (talk to your pharmacist or doctor)
  • Extra eyeglasses, contacts or hearing aids
  • Extra batteries and chargers for hearing aids, motorized wheelchairs or other battery-powered medical or assistive technology devices
  • Local maps
  • Food, water and other essentials for your pets, if applicable
  • Names and numbers of your medical providers and everyone in your personal support network
  • Copies of important documents such as prescriptions, medical equipment model and serial numbers, medical insurance, birth certificates, wills, passports, power of attorney documents, deeds, social security/social insurance/other benefits numbers, credit cards, bank information and tax records. It is best to keep these documents in a waterproof/fireproof container

Maintaining your kit is important. Review the contents at least every six months or as needs change. Replace food, water, batteries, medications and other perishable items based on expiration dates.

Make a Plan
Plan to evacuate or shelter-in-place
Depending on the nature of the disaster, you may either have to find shelter-in-place or evacuate. Know the safe places in your home in case you need to shelter-in-place as well as the best and quickest escape routes from your home and neighborhood. Choose several destinations in various areas so you have options. Note that emergency public shelters only allow service animals so plan in advance for alternatives that will work for both you and your pets, if applicable (e.g., family, friends, local veterinarian).

Create a personal support network
Make a list of family, friends and other contacts that can help you in an emergency— for example, people who may be willing to host you. Share your concerns and limitations and discuss an action plan (e.g., transportation needs, evacuation routes). Also, let them know where your emergency supplies are located. Arrange for someone to check on you in the event of an emergency and make sure he or she has a key or other means to access your home. Practice the emergency plan to make sure potential needs are adequately addressed and review the plan every six months.

Develop a family communications plan
Consider a system where each family member calls the same loved one in the event of an emergency. Note that it is often easier to make long-distance calls during a disaster so out-of-state contacts may be better able to get in touch with separated loved ones.

Talk to your service providers
If you undergo routine treatments administered by a clinic or hospital, or if you receive regular services such as home health care or home care, talk to your service providers about their emergency plans. Work with them to identify back-up providers within your area and the areas to which you might evacuate. If you use medical equipment in your home that requires electricity to operate, talk to your health care provider about what you can do to prepare for its use during a power outage. Ask your utility company about emergency procedures and know how and when to turn off water, gas and electricity. Keep any tools you may need nearby.

Ensure access to funds
A disaster can disrupt mail service for days or even weeks. If you receive any benefits or checks through the mail, you may not have access to your account during an emergency. Consider setting up a direct deposit system through your bank to ensure immediate access to your funds.

Stay Informed
Evaluate risks in your community
Think about the risk for both natural (e.g., hurricanes, flooding, winter storms and earthquakes) and man-made (e.g., hazardous material spills and transportation accidents) disasters. Research various emergency preparedness programs in your local community for further, location-relevant tips and resources – how will you be warned of a disaster and how will authorities communicate with you during and after a disaster? Some local emergency management offices maintain registers of seniors so they can be located and assisted quickly in an emergency.

Weather Radio/All-Hazard Alert Radio
Weather service-sponsored radios often provide the earliest warnings of weather-related and other emergencies, and can be programmed to alert you to disasters in your specific neighborhood.

We hope that you found our emergency preparedness tips helpful! Have additional suggestions? Let us know in the comments below or on our Facebook page!


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