Everyone should have a plan of action for what to do in case of a disaster. But older people often have different health and mobility considerations to take into account. For example: How quickly can a senior person move in event of a disaster? Can they move without help or do they use mobility aids? Can they see or hear disaster alerts? What medicine supplies or special medical equipment do they need to take with them? Will they need to have a steady supply of electricity to operate equipment? These, and other considerations, mean that seniors have to make a few changes and additions to their disaster preparations.
Nine Disaster Tips for Seniors
1). Identify the risks at and around your home.
Is the area you live in prone to wildfires? Tornadoes? Are blizzards an annual occurrence where you live? Do you have occasional earthquakes? You should know the disasters that are likely to occur in the area where you live and concentrate on preparing just for them.
2). Know your local resources.
Where are the local hospitals and other critical services located? Where do the local shelters or evacuation centers usually set up? You can save yourself time and confusion if you know your area in advance. Keep a list of local contact information:
– Local Emergency Management Office
– Local Law Enforcement
– Local Public Safety, Fire, Rescue
– State, County, and City / Town Government
– Local Hospitals
– Local Utilities
– Local American Red Cross
– Medical Transportation Companies
– Your Property Insurance Agent
– Local Television Stations
– Local Radio Stations
3). Prepare an Emergency Plan ahead of time.
– Senior citizens may not be with their family when an emergency occurs so they need to know how to contact them if necessary. You should have a prearranged meeting place or appoint an out-of-state friend or family member who can act as a contact point.
– Make an emergency contact list so you know how to contact friends / family members wherever they may be. Click the link to go to an excellent printable two page contact list that you can fill in with your contacts and their info.
– Get a NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) weather radio with text alerts and visual / tactile alerts. The National Weather Service does NOT make or sell NOAA weather radios but you can buy them at many retailers. Click this link for a page to help you find the right radio for you.
– Special Needs Registry.
Before an emergency happens, check with your local fire department or Office of Emergency Management Services. You may be able to notify them and register for special assistance. For example, if you are deaf / hard of hearing, you may be able to register for special communication assistance with emergency notifications. Another example, if you have limited mobility or are disabled, you may be able to register for special assistance.
– If you receive health care services at your home, check with your health care provider about emergency procedures.
– If you use an electric wheelchair or scooter you might consider keeping an older unpowered wheelchair or walker to use in an emergency.
– Special Needs Shelters. The law says people with special needs can go to a general population shelter with their family and friends if they want to (even if you have a service animal or need an interpreter). But if you have special medical needs (example: medicines that need refrigeration) or equipment (example: respirator, nebulizer, etc.), you might want to go to a Special Needs Shelter. Be aware that space may be limited.
– Keep specialized items together and ready, including extra wheelchair batteries or an unpowered chair, oxygen, catheters, etc.
– Make a list of the type and model numbers of any medical devices you require.
– Label all of your medical devices and aids (wheelchairs, walkers, oxygen, respirator, etc.) with your name, address, and phone number.
– Service Animals. If you have a service animal, make sure you have proper ID for the animal as well as all the supplies and equipment you will need to care for the animal.
4). Create a personal support network.
– Include friends, family, neighbors, co-workers, doctors, personal attendants, organizations, places of worship, etc.
– Exchange phone numbers, cell phone numbers, email, addresses. Become familiar with texting in case phones become unreliable.
– Make sure your support network knows what medicines you take, where they are kept, any physical limitations, any special medical processes, and how to operate any medical equipment.
– Show your support network where your emergency supplies are stored.
– Exchange copies of emergency documents, health contracts, and evacuation plans.
– Exchange important keys (to your house, car, garage, etc.).
– Tell your support network if you have to leave your house and where you are going.
5). Prepare an Emergency Kit.
There are many websites where you can buy pre-made Emergency Kits or you can make your own Kit. Click this link to see one basic list of emergency supplies.
Here is one possible Emergency Kit list for seniors that I have put together based on information from several different sources:
– Water, minimum 1 gallon per person per day for 3-5 days
– Food, nonperishable food for 3-5 days
– Manual can opener
– First aid kit and first aid book / instructions
– Minimum 1 week supply of medicines
– Extra pair of glasses, if needed
– Extra hearing aid plus extra batteries, if needed
– Denture and contact lens supplies, if needed
– Collapsible cane or walker
– Flashlight plus extra batteries and bulbs
– Cordless radio plus extra batteries (NOAA Weather Radio is best)
– Sanitation supplies (garbage bags, moist novelettes, hand sanitizer, latex gloves, etc.)
– Whistle to signal for help
– Duct tape, scissors, and plastic sheeting (to seal house if need be)
– Filter mask or goggles, to protect eyes and breathing
– Blanket or sleeping bag for each person
– Cash and coins (ATMs may not be working or available)
– Multi-purpose tool or wrench or pliers to turn off utilities if needed (be aware that only professionals may turn the gas back on, NOT you)
– extra set of keys and ID, local maps
– Pet food and supplies, if needed
6). Prepare important documents
Copies should be kept in a water proof container or envelope.
– Birth, marriage, death certificates
– Insurance policies
– Medical cards
– List of prescription medications including dosages
– List of style and serial numbers of any medical devices
– Medical records
– List of doctors and relatives / friends who should be notified if you become ill
– Financial forms
– State ID
– Family records
– Social Security Numbers
– Bank account information
– Tax records
– Inventory of household valuables
– Veterinary records of service animals or pets plus photos
7). Take care of your medicines.
How do you know what drugs to keep and what to replace after a disaster?
Click this link to go to a U.S. Food and Drug Administration page that will give you some tips on the use of drugs that may have been affected by disasters. But if you have any doubts, you should check with your doctor or your local hospitals.
8). Beware of scammers and cons.
Do not let someone take advantage of you. Be very cautious of phone calls, emails, or people who solicit financial donations.
9). Social Security and other payments.
You may have to evacuate your home. You may not be able to return any time soon. Maybe the mail will not be able to be delivered. If you receive Social Security, other regular payments, or withdrawals from retirement accounts, consider having them made electronically. This can help ensure that payments continue to provide you with a steady income whether you are at home, a shelter, or staying with friends / family.
Here is a list of printable tip lists and brochures with helpful information for senior citizens:
– Click here for a 24 page printable / readable brochure. It was put together for the state of Florida but it includes great basic info on just about everything disaster related. Plus page 13 is an excellent Emergency Kit checklist.
– Clicking this link will take you to a page which will allow you to choose to open tip pages dealing with specific disasters (you also have your choice of languages).
– Click this link for Just in Case: Emergency Readiness for Older Adults and Caregivers, a 12 page readable / printable brochure.
– Click here to go to Disaster Preparedness for Seniors by Seniors, a 32 page readable / printable brochure.
– Click the link for a 2 page readable / printable about making a plan and an Emergency Kit.
– Click this list to see a disaster supplies list prepared by the East Georgia Red Cross.
– Click here for more disaster tips for seniors from the East Georgia Red Cross.
And finally, a couple of fun things:
– Click here for another word search on Emergency Survival Kits.