For seniors, it is more important than ever to be prepared for emergencies. Disasters can strike suddenly, at anytime and anywhere. Whether you live alone or depend on a caregiver, it is vital to have a plan for what to do before, during, and after a disaster. Remember, preparing today can make a big difference tomorrow.
Plan for Your Needs
Protect yourself by planning ahead for emergencies. Discuss emergency plans with family, friends and neighbors. It is also important to let them know about your risks and vulnerabilities. In addition to the standard items that should be in your emergency kit, you should also consider storing your supplies in a container or bag that has wheels. You should label any equipment – such as wheelchairs, canes or walkers – that you need with your name, address, and phone numbers.
When creating your emergency plans, know the answers to the following questions and plan accordingly.
- Do you live alone?
- Do you drive or own a car?
- How good is your sense of smell?
- Do you have any physical, medical, thinking or learning limitations?
- Has your sense of hearing or vision decreased?
- Are you reliant upon any medical equipment?
- Are you reliant upon a caregiver?
You should also be informed about your community’s disaster plans. Ask local officials about your area’s response and evacuation plans in the event of an emergency. If you do not own a vehicle or drive, find out what their plans are for those evacuating without private transportation. It is also a good idea to evacuate with a neighbor or someone living in close proximity of your home. If you receive home care, speak with your case manager to see what their plan is in times of emergency and how they can assist with you.
It’s also a good idea to connect with a group in your neighborhood, such as neighborhood watch, community block associations, or faith-based organizations. Even if you feel you cannot become a member, let them know your needs and ask them how they could assist with your disaster plan. If available, take advantage of advance registration systems in your area for those who need help during community emergencies.
Seniors and Fires
The American Red Cross has found that home fires are the most common emergency in this country. While everyone is as risk, seniors are especially vulnerable because many live alone and may not be able respond quickly. Prevention is key to preparing for fires. You should consider the following to avoid causing a fire in your residence:
- Be sure that someone is present while your smoking, cooking, or near candles
- Keep candles and flames away from combustible materials
- Do not overload electrical out lets or use appliances with frayed or cracked wires
- Have shut-off valves for gas, water, and electricity labeled
- Have fireplaces, fuel-burning heaters, and woodstoves inspected routinely, especially before every heating season
- To prevent carbon monoxide poisoning, make sure that heating equipment is properly vented to the outside
- Test your smoke and fire detectors every month to ensure they work properly
- You should keep at least one working fire extinguisher in your home at all times and know how to use it properly
- Examine your fire extinguisher and smoke detectors at least twice a year, and change the batteries if necessary
Prepare To Escape
It’s important to assess your household and remove any items that could be hazardous when evacuating. During a disaster, you may have to respond quickly, so it’s important to remove any times that could cause injury.
- To prevent falling, secure or remove throw runs and carpet, keep floors dry, wipe up spills immediately, and be sure to use non-wax cleaning products on floors.
- If you use a wheelchair, make sure your escape routes are wheelchair accessible.
- Keep support items like wheelchairs and walkers in a designated place so they can be found as quickly as possible.
- Know the safe places within your home in case you need shelter during extreme weather events.
- Keep hearing aids or assistive devices near the bedside container. You may want to attach the equipment with Velcro as some disasters, particular earthquakes, may cause items to shift.
Be Prepared for Shelters
The American Red Cross may open shelters if a disaster affects a large number of people or the emergency is expected to last several days. When shelters are opened, seniors are encouraged to seek shelter as soon as possible. If a senior choses to stay at home when advised to leave, it could be much more difficult rescue them during or after a disaster. You should be prepared to go to a shelter if you experience any of the following:
- Your neighborhood is without electrical power
- Floodwater is rising
- Your home has been severely damaged
- Police or other local officials tell you to evacuate
- If the your local area is unstable after a disaster