All the recent storms and flooding should make us aware of the need for emergency preparedness. This is especially true for vulnerable populations, including older adults and those with disabilities.
Here are some useful tips and resources to help with preparing for an emergency:
While everyone has unique needs and abilities, everyone can take steps to prepare for any type of emergency.
If you have a friend or family member who lives alone and has aging or disability needs, you can help that person be better prepared as well. Be informed about what types of emergencies are more likely to happen in your region, and learn where to get the best local information and alerts.
Most counties have an emergency management department, in addition to local public safety, that can provide this type of information.
Thinking about possible emergency situations and devising a plan of action is the first, best step toward ensuring safety for yourself and those you love. For all kinds of emergencies – from natural disasters to accidents to terrorist attacks – preparation is key.
The message from agencies such as the Federal Emergency Management Agency and American Red Cross is “get ready now.”
According to the Department of Homeland Security’s www.ready.gov, there are three steps for emergency preparedness: 1) Get a kit; 2) Make a plan; 3) Stay informed.
An emergency kit should contain items necessary for a person’s needs, and it is recommended it contain supplies to survive on your own for at least three days.
This would include water, nonperishable food, a can opener, a flashlight with extra batteries, first aid supplies, travel-size toiletries, a battery-operated or hand-crank radio, a whistle to signal for help, a dust mask to filter contaminated air, moist towelettes, garbage bags and plastic ties for personal sanitation.
Other items could include extra clothing and boots, an area map, your emergency contact and medical information, extra medications you need, plastic sheeting and duct tape for sheltering, and extra food and water supplies for pets and service animals.
The kit, or bag, should be small and portable, like a backpack, and kept somewhere you can grab it and go if necessary.
People with mobility issues, who are on oxygen or undergoing routine treatments, or who have special hearing, vision, and/or speech needs should think ahead accordingly as to how an emergency might affect their needs and what additional supplies might need to be kept in their emergency kit.
Copies of medical prescriptions, doctors’ orders and medical alert tags or bracelets should be included. Perhaps a laminated personal communication board if you might need assistance with being understood or understanding others.
An emergency plan offers options and alternatives to your daily routine. It should include a plan of communication with family, which might involve a phone or email chain, taking into account power or phones might be down for some time.
An emergency plan also includes creating a personal support network. In the case of older adults or those with disabilities without family nearby, that means making a list of local friends and neighbors you can contact in an emergency, and also your family members can call these people to get information in an emergency.
Ask people to be part of your personal support network and make sure someone has an extra key to your home, knows your emergency plan, and where you have your emergency supplies.
If possible, have an agreed upon location where you can meet after an emergency.
For more ideas and checklists, visit www.ready.gov or contact your local Red Cross office.
Sara Duris is community information liaison of Region IV Area Agency on Aging in Southwest Michigan. Questions on age or independence services? Call the Info-Line for Aging & Disability at 800-654-2810 or visit www.areaagencyonaging.org. The Generations column appears each Sunday in The Herald-Palladium.