Before disasters happen, it is important to have a plan. Preparedness is the key to survival and safety. For older Americans, there are some special issues to consider. As part of the normal aging process, mobility deteriorates. In addition to this, many peoples’ needs change. For example, a person who develops a respiratory illness may require constant oxygen. If a disaster struck, this would be a very important special consideration for that individual. The following steps are helpful for elderly Americans who must develop disaster plans.
1. Find out about local risks. Some areas of the United States are more prone to specific disasters. For example, the Midwest is prone to tornadoes during the spring and summer months. Residents of California know to expect earthquakes. Since the South often gets torrential downpours, the rivers flood frequently. Find out about local weather disaster risks and man-made risks. Some areas are more likely to experience terrorist attacks than others. Different situations demand different preparedness plans. Older Americans often relocate after they retire, so the risks in a new location may be completely different than those faced in the last area of residence.
2. Build a support network. People who have special needs should pay close attention to this step. Support networks can be made up of friends, family members, organizations, medical professionals, places of worship and neighbors. The people in the network should know about individual needs, medications and any other special instructions. If a disaster happens, having a strong network may ensure survival. Make sure to also have some out-of-area contacts. These contacts should know about disastrous situations as soon as possible after they happen. Obtain home phone numbers, cellphone numbers and email addresses.
3. Make an emergency kit. Every kit should include necessary medications, extra eyeglasses, bottled water, non-perishable foods and filter masks. Canned foods can be stored for several years, so stock up on fruits and vegetables. It is also possible to store rice, beans and oatmeal in airtight containers. These nutritious foods can be soaked in water and used for healthy survival meals. Have enough food to last at least three days. Some disaster effects could last longer, so tuck away more food if there is enough space. Water is usually harder to come by after a disaster, so have enough bottles to last three weeks. If there is a bad earthquake, it could take several weeks to fix all of the pipes or even get ample supplies of water to people in big cities. Never wait until prescriptions are almost out to refill them. It is best to get refills as soon as possible, which will ensure an emergency supply of medication is available. Emergency kits should also include a few non-consumable items. Copies of birth certificates, identification cards, insurance policies and other important documents are beneficial to keep. Any digital items can be stored on a flash drive.
4. Devise an emergency plan. Write out a family emergency plan. If there are no children living at home, discuss these issues with a spouse. Review the plan frequently, and make any necessary changes. Disasters often strike with very little or no warning, so the first reaction many people experience is panic. If a plan is memorized, it will be easier to stay calm and make rational decisions. Visit Ready.gov to record important personal information for family members. For answers to any questions, discuss concerns with an agent.