Did you know that National Preparedness Month is observed each September to raise awareness about the importance of preparing for disasters and emergencies? This year, Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) Ready Campaign theme is “Take Control in 1, 2, 3”. Though preparedness is for everyone, this year’s campaign focuses on preparing older adults and their caregivers for all kinds of hazards including floods, fires, earthquakes, and more. Several factors make older adults more vulnerable to the impacts of disasters, especially if they are living alone, are low-income, have a disability, or live in rural areas.
If you are an older adult or there is someone in your life who is (like a neighbor, friend, or family member), here are some tips and resources for preparing for the unexpected.
1. Assess your needs.
An important first step in preparedness is understanding the risks you may encounter – big and small. Knowing what you may face will help you assess your needs and get you started on your preparedness journey. Learn about the types of disasters that could happen in your community, sign up for alerts and warnings, and think about what needs you have.
- Do you have any medical conditions or dietary restrictions that require specific care or medication?
- Do you have mobility challenges or need assistance with transportation if there was an evacuation?
- Do you have medical equipment that requires electricity?
Think about how to prepare for your needs to be met and make sure your loved ones and caregivers are aware of your plan.
2. Make a plan.
Now that you’ve assessed your needs, it’s time to make a plan. Because disasters and emergencies can strike with no warning, it is vital to have a plan and be prepared. It is also essential to create a support network. Though a support network can look different for everyone, it might consist of family, friends, caregivers, and neighbors. Include these people in your planning and practice with them. Make sure at least one person in your support network has a spare key to your home, knows where your emergency kit is, and knows how to use lifesaving equipment or administer medicine. Additional things to consider when making a plan include:
- What is your communication plan for notifying loved ones about the emergency?
- Do you need transportation assistance or additional travel time if you need to evacuate? Identify an accessible evacuation route and shelter and plan for transportation assistance if needed in advance.
- Don’t forget your pets or service animals. Not all shelters accept pets, so plan for alternatives and consider asking friends or loved ones outside of your immediate area if they can help.
3. Build a kit.
After an emergency, you may need to survive on your own for several days. Make sure you have your own food, water, and other essential supplies to last for several days. Some important things to consider including in your emergency kit as an older adult include:
- Medicine and medical supplies (a week-long supply, if possible)
- Assistive devices (hearing aids, mobility aids, eyeglasses) and spare batteries
- Care plan – a list of prescriptions, dosage information, and medical providers
- Important documents (identification, insurance cards, wills, power of attorney documents, deeds, etc.)
- Contact list (people you want or need to be connected to during an emergency)
Emergency planning can look different for everyone. Check out this preparedness guide and emergency kit checklist for additional tips, ideas, and worksheets. Take time today to assess your needs, make a plan, and build a kit!
Additional preparedness resources and information: