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 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 ready.gov 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
Wrench or pliers (to turn off utilities, if necessary)
Important documents (see below)
Whistle (to signal for help)
Filter mask (or cotton T-shirt)
If necessary, include the following items:
Hearing aid batteries
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:
Social security number
Bank account information
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 godirect.org.
More resources for further reading
For additional advice, visit Ready.gov, or call 1-800-BE-READY
To read more about creating a personal support network, read: www.redcross.org/prepare/location/home-family/seniors
Take a look at the family emergency plan from Ready.gov.