Disaster Preparedness

Natural disasters put everyone in their path at risk. Whether it’s a hurricane, a wildfire, a winter storm, or even a heat wave, lives can hang in the balance. But seniors and people with disabilities are even more at risk. Here are some eye-opening statistics:
     -Adults 75 and older made up half of the deaths from Hurricane Katrina
     -After a heat wave hit Chicago in 1995, adults 65 and older made up almost two-thirds of fatalities
     -People over 85 are four more times likely to die in a wildfire than the total population.
   This is due to a number of reasons, including scare financial resources, isolation, mobility issues, making it hard to prepare for disasters. Here are some things for consumers and their assistants to help them prepare.
    Assess the services that might be available in a natural disaster. Get in touch with the local service agency – a good place to start is United Way. One essential service they can help with is transportation. If evacuation becomes recommended or mandatory, many communities provide transportation for those who can’t get away otherwise.
    Along with local services, get familiar with what shelters might be nearby and plan what route would be best to get there. Plan what you need to keep on hand in case you have to shelter in place or leave on short notice. Check on routine maintenance to see if the home can weather a storm. Whether it’s tree trimming or space heaters to keep pipes from freezing, see if there is a way to get this done ahead of time.
    It can be easy for those who are isolated to unaware of local conditions. Assistants can help make sure they are aware of any potential threats and encourage them to take appropriate action.
   Once they are aware of an event, assistants should check in often as the situation develops. Staying in touch provides important moral support for what is a trying time. Have a list of phone numbers of people to contact in case of an emergency.
   Not all seniors and people with disabilities live on their own. It’s a good idea to check with the people running the facility to see if they have a stock of supplies or transportation they can arrange. This can help the caregiver be ready to fill in any gaps in preparedness.
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