Natural disasters, including hurricanes and wildfires, have been at the top of the news reports for the past few months. Here in the Pacific Northwest, we don’t need to worry about hurricanes but we have our own unique disaster possibilities with wildfires, the usually dormant volcanoes in our backyard in the Cascade Mountains, and the fault lines through the region that can cause earthquakes. Any of these may force you to evacuate your home or to shelter-in-place at short notice. It is important to know what to do in case of an emergency well before disaster strikes.
If you are an older adult living in the community, you may face some challenges during an emergency. For example, you may have mobility problems or chronic health conditions, or you may not have any family or friends nearby to support you. Support services that are usually available, such as help from caregivers or in-home health care and meal delivery services, may be unavailable for a period of time. In addition, older adults may experience challenges that come with advanced age, such as hearing or vision problems or cognitive impairment, which may make it difficult to access, understand, and respond to emergency instructions.
You or the person you care for can be prepared for emergency situations by creating a plan, reviewing, or practicing it regularly, and keeping an emergency supply kit.
Creating a Plan
The first step in preparing for an emergency is creating a plan. Work with your friends, family, and neighbors to develop a plan that will fit your needs.
- Choose a contact person who will check on you during a disaster and decide how you will communicate with each other (for instance, by telephone, knocking on doors). Consider speaking with your neighbors about developing a check-in system together.
- Create a list of contact information for family members and friends. Leave a copy by your phone(s) and include one in your Emergency Supply Kit.
- Plan how you will leave and where you will go during an evacuation. If you are living in a retirement or assisted living community, learn what procedures are in place in case of emergencies. Keep a copy of exit routes and meeting places in an easy-to-reach place.
- Create a care plan and keep a copy in your Emergency Supply Kit. Try out CDC’s easy-to-use care plan at Your Care Plan [PDF – 1 MB]
- If you have medical, transportation or other access needs during an emergency, consider signing up for SMART911, Code Red, or your local county registry, depending upon which service your area uses to helps first responders identify people who may need assistance right away.
Creating an Emergency Supply Kit
After an emergency, you may not have access to clean water or electricity. Make sure you are prepared with your own supply of food, water and other items to last for at least 72 hours.
Visit the Department of Homeland Security’s ready.gov website for a list of basic items to gather for your Disaster Supply Kit.
- Medical-related items:
- A three-day supply of medicine, at a minimum. If medications need to be kept cold, have a cooler and ice packs available.
- ID band (full name, contact number for family member/caregiver, and allergies)
- Hearing aids and extra batteries
- Glasses and/or contacts and contact solution
- Medical supplies like syringes or extra batteries
- Information about medical devices such as wheelchairs, walkers and oxygen including model numbers and vender.
- Documents (Keep physical copies in a waterproof bag and take photos of each document for backup):
- Your Care Plan [PDF – 1 MB]
- Contact information for family members, doctors, pharmacies and/or caregivers
- List of all medications, including the exact name of the medicine and the dosage, and contact information for the pharmacy and doctor who prescribed medicine
- List of allergies to food or medicines
- Copies of medical insurance cards
- Copies of a photo ID
- Durable power of attorney and/or medical power of attorney documents, as appropriate.
- Cash to be used if automatic teller and credit card machines are not working.
The CDC also recommends people include additional supplies to address the spread of the coronavirus, flu and other viruses. They include masks for everyone age 2 and older, soap, hand sanitizer and disinfecting wipes.
The Ready.gov site offers a number of emergency resources, including a list of items that should be in a basic emergency kit. Among those suggested:
- 1 gallon of water per day per person for at least three days.
- At least a three-day supply of nonperishable food.
- A battery-powered or hand-crank radio, along with a NOAA weather radio that sends an automatic tone in case of an emergency alert.
- A flashlight and extra batteries.
- A cellphone with chargers and a backup battery.
- A whistle to signal for help.
While parts of the U.S. need to be prepared every year for a possible hurricane or tornado, we in the Pacific Northwest rarely have a disaster that creates the need to use an emergency plan or supplies. However, in the past 20 years or so, we’ve had a major earthquake that caused considerable damage, a few snowstorms that have left thousands without electricity for days and record-breaking heat waves. The time to plan for an emergency is not while you’re experiencing it.
Please take the time to ensure you and the seniors you love, are ready for whatever may come.
— By Adrienne Miller, Chief Care Officer
Forever Care Services, LLC