Seniors must be prepared for emergencies | Time of your Life

Every adult should be aware of the potential disasters where they live and also have plans in place to deal with them, but senior citizens in particular can be more vulnerable and may need more help planning.

The following guide covers all the main topics to help you prepare for yourself or a family member.

1 – Assess the common risks near your home

This region may not be home to hurricanes, but isolated areas can flood, wooded areas can turn to wildfires and, or course, the threat of an earthquake always exists.

2 – Know your local resources

Keep a list of contact information for reference:

Local Emergency Management Office

County Law Enforcement

County Public Safety Fire/Rescue

State, County and City/Town Government

Local Hospitals

Local Utilities

Local American Red Cross

Local TV Stations

Local Radio Stations

Your Property Insurance Agent

Medical Transportation Companies

For more tips and further information on local risks and relief, the FEMA website at is a great resource.

3  - Prepare an emergency plan for the relevant potential disasters

In some cases, senior citizens may need to shelter themselves within their own homes. If the air outside is contaminated, it may be necessary to remain indoors. It is a good idea to pre-cut plastic sheeting, in case the doors, windows and vents need to be covered.

The nearest evacuation/community centers should be located in advance. Senior citizens should consider using these places as drop-off or meeting locations with friends and family if such an event occurs.

4 – Establish a Personal Support Network

If possible, senior citizens with cell phones should become familiar with text messaging. If there is an emergency, making calls is often unreliable, and this is the best way to communicate as texts can make it through in a matter of seconds or a few minutes if communication lines are extremely busy.

People who are in each other’s support networks should let one another know when they leave town.

5 – Have an emergency kit and important documents

A first-aid kit is only the beginning, as each person should have food, drinking water, and regular medicines on hand and ready to go. Many people also neglect to make sure they have access to important documents and account numbers.

Putting together an Emergency Kit

Water (minimum one gallon per person per day)

Nonperishable food (at least three days’ worth)

Manual can opener

First Aid kit

Minimum one-week supply of medicine


Cordless radio

Extra batteries

Wrench or pliers (to turn off utilities, if necessary)

Important documents (see below)

Moist towelettes

Garbage bags

Whistle (to signal for help)

Plastic sheeting

Duct tape

Filter mask (or cotton T-shirt)

Hand sanitizer



If necessary, include the following items:

Extra glasses

Hearing aids

Hearing aid batteries

Collapsible cane

Pet food

Depending on what specific emergencies occur in an area, senior citizens could include additional preparation items. For instance, if the area has a risk of blizzards, the kit should include a knit hat and gloves; if the area risks hurricanes, the kit should hold rain ponchos and umbrellas.


Preparing important documents

In case of emergency, senior citizens should have photocopies of important documents handy. These should be kept safe in a waterproof container or folder.

This packet should include copies of:

Birth certificates

Insurance policies

Medicare cards

Financial forms


State identification

Family records



Social security number

Medical records

Bank account information

Tax records

If you are preparing for a senior relative, make sure you also have a folder containing your own photocopies of all of the above.


6 – Make plans for pets as well

You should assume that if you are being evacuated that your pet will be coming with you. If you live in an area that can flood, it would be wise to consider where you might ride the storm out, whether it’s a family members place in another area, or a pet-friendly hotel in a safer locale.


7 – Don’t be taken advantage of

Remember to be very cautious of any phone calls or emails that solicit financial donations. Seniors in particular have increasingly become targets of scams. Here’s one suggested reply if you are faced with such a situation, “I am donating directly to the Red Cross, my church or other reputable organization.”


8 – Social Security & Other Payments

If a senior citizen receives Social Security, other regular payments or withdrawals from retirement accounts, consider having them paid electronically. This can help to ensure that payments continue to provide a steady income should you not be able to return home to receive mailed payments.

Social Security direct deposits can be initiated by calling 1-800-333-1795, or visiting

More resources for further reading

For additional advice, visit, or call 1-800-BE-READY

To read more about creating a personal support network, read:

Take a look at the family emergency plan from

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