Floodwaters, wildfires, or tornadoes. No matter where we live, natural disasters, and even the man-made ones, typically strike quickly and without warning. Recent “superstorm” Sandy served as a brutal reminder that no one is immune from the effects of disasters, particularly the elderly and those with special ambulatory needs. I was surprised by how many local seniors and their families did not have an emergency plan.
In an emergency, basic services including water, gas, electricity and communications may be cut off, and grocery stores, gas stations and pharmacies may be closed or crippled with long lines. The key to withstanding disasters is readiness. The following steps can help safeguard older adults for disasters.
Secure a supply kit. Assemble a flashlight, first aid kit, batteries, blankets and adequate supplies of water, nonperishable food, medications, hygiene items, etc. for a minimum of three days. Pack supplies in an easy-to-transport waterproof container and store in a handy place. Every six months, or as needs change, review the survival kit contents and keep supplies updated.
Create a personal support network and plan. Whether they are family members, neighbors, friends or caregivers, seniors need a group of people who can help them talk through personal limitations and concerns with a detailed disaster action plan that includes evacuation routes, transportation needs, communication contacts, and emergency documents/health information. Be sure to test the disaster plan occasionally to be sure it works.
Stay informed. The Administration on Aging website lists state emergency preparedness websites, and many states and local communities provide disaster preparedness guides for seniors. Older adults should know in advance community emergency warning systems and how they will be notified in a possible emergency.
Helping older loved ones plan for possible disasters and community emergencies reduces anxiety, injuries and life-threatening situations. We can all help each other by planning for disasters as not just a matter of if, but when.