Emergency Preparedness Plan for Seniors

Emergency Preparedness Plan for Seniors

Although it is wise for people of all ages to have emergency preparation plans in place, many seniors have additional needs and are especially vulnerable to natural disasters. This is true whether someone lives at home or in a nursing home. A case in point is Hurricane Sandy, in which half of the victims were over the age of 65; and Hurricane Katrina, where the number of victims in this age demographic exceeded 70 percent. The many sad stories that arose from these disasters have given us clues as to why this happened, but also provided invaluable lessons on how to prepare to help avoid future tragedies. Among the reasons seniors are so vulnerable:

  • Being wheelchair bound or having other functional impairments that limit the ability to evacuate, especially when elevators are not working
  • Medical oxygen supplies being cut off due to power outages
  • Fleeing in cars and getting swept away by rising floodwaters
  • Not having enough medicine on hand for chronic, serious conditions

Creating a Personalized Emergency Plan

The first step in creating a plan is to enlist family members and friends that you can count on in a time of emergency. Keep in mind what types of transportation you use and if there are alternative methods such as public transportation or taxis. If you require wheelchair-accessible transportation, make sure you know how to access these services in your community. A printed copy of your plan can be kept with your emergency supply kit. Most experts suggest having two kits available, the first of which should contain all the things you need if you can stay safely in your own residence. The second kit should be a smaller version with items you may need if you have to evacuate. It is particularly important for seniors with health issues to have enough medication on hand.

Creating Your Personal Network

Experts recommend that people in a network share phone numbers, residential keys, copies of relevant emergency documents, evacuation plans, and health insurance and physician information. Keep in mind that one or more modes of communication may be knocked out, so make sure you have both landline and cell phone numbers and email addresses (if possible) for each person.

Basic Emergency Preparedness Kit

  • Water, one gallon per person, per day—enough to last three to five days
  • Dehydrated or freeze dried meals—enough to last three to five days
  • Canned food and can opener
  • Flashlight with extra batteries
  • Candles, matches, and disposable lighters
  • Battery-powered or hand-crank radio and batteries (NOAA weather radio, if possible)
  • Extra batteries
  • First aid kit
  • Medications (one-week supply) and medical items
  • Multi-purpose tool
  • Sanitation and personal hygiene items
  • Copies of personal documents
  • Cell phone with chargers
  • Family and emergency contact information
  • Whistle to signal for help
  • Dust mask to help filter contaminated air
  • Plastic sheeting and duct tape to transform home into safer shelter
  • Disposable hand wipes
  • Garbage bags with plastic ties
  • Wrench or pliers to turn off utilities
  • Local maps
  • Pet food, extra water, and supplies (if applicable)


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