Hurricane season in the Atlantic begins on June 1st and ends November 30th. If you live in a coastal area, that means 6 months of closely watching weather forecasts to check if a tropical storm or hurricane is headed your way. What is the best way to protect yourself and your loved ones?
How should seniors prepare for hurricane season? Hurricane preparedness for older adults should include a set of specific emergency kits including first aid kits, evacuation kits, shelter in place kits and pet kits. Also included should be an escape plan, emergency contact list, additional batteries and lights as well as medications and medical equipment currently being used.
Truthfully, everyone should have an emergency kit and survival/escape plan in place, but most especially if you live in a hot zone like California or the Gulf Coast. But also especially if you are a senior and/or require special needs.
Many people wonder if hurricanes can be prevented or manipulated. Although there has been a growing interest in manipulating the weather to prevent (or increase) hurricanes, there has been little success in effectively doing so. The only thing we truly have control over, however, is the way we prepare for them. Preparedness includes protecting your property, your valuables, and yourself in order to mitigate the damage or loss.CrisisEquipped.com
Truth is, even if you do not live in the coastal regions, you can still be impacted by hurricane weather. The damaging winds and possible tornadoes that can be created by hurricanes can be extremely damaging and deadly.
What Is Emergency Preparedness?
Being prepared for an emergency is not just about stocking up on supplies. It’s also about having a plan and knowing what to do if disaster strikes.
The first step in being prepared is understanding the risks involved in different types of disasters and how they can impact you, your family, and your community.
For example, if you live in an area that is prone to hurricanes, you should know the warning signs and evacuation routes.
You should also have a plan for where you will go and what you will do if you are ordered to evacuate.
If you have pets, you should make sure they are included in your evacuation plans.
In addition to knowing the risks and having a plan, it is important to have an emergency kit stocked with supplies that will last you at least three days.
Your emergency kit should include items like food, water, a first-aid kit, medications, tools, and supplies for your pets.
You should also have cash on hand as ATMs may not be working during or after a hurricane.
What Elderly Adults Need To Prepare For A Hurricane
Senior citizens are more vulnerable to natural disasters for a variety of reasons that could include physical and/or cognitive impairments, lack of awareness and/or preparedness, lack of a support network, etc.
The resulting statistics from Hurricane Katrina in 2005 was…
Drowning (40%), injury and trauma (25%), and heart conditions (11%) were the major causes of death among Louisiana victims. Forty-nine percent of victims were people 75 years old and older.National Library of Medicine
So, the importance of hurricane preparations (or preparing for any emergency situation or natural disaster) is – in our opinion – doubly important for older adults.
Emergency preparedness for seniors are slightly different in that they emphasize three main factors…
- Medications – many seniors (not all of course) have medical conditions that require them to take medication on a regular basis. Before a disaster hits, it’s important to have enough prescription medications on hand to cover you for at least a week.
- Medical equipment – If you require oxygen or colostomy bags or catheters or other medical devices, you will want to have at least a week’s worth of supplies of those as well in your emergency kit.
- Transportation – if you are an older adult that can no longer drive then you will need to make arrangements beforehand to be transported to a safe location if evacuation orders are put in place.
Hurricane Preparation Checklist For Seniors
You can put together a few “kits” to keep you or your elderly parent organized and prepared for a worst-case scenario if needed.
The one “good” thing about hurricanes is that you can prepare for days in advance (as compared to tornadoes and earthquakes).
The set of emergency kits that we recommend for any type of natural disaster are…
- First Aid Kit – this of course includes the basic items needed in case of a medical emergency but should additionally include your medication and any medical equipment you are currently using (i.e. oxygen, blood pressure cuff, mobility devices, etc.) – Read more about First Aid Kits here.
- Evacuation Kit – this is basically a bag (usually a back pack or duffel bag) that you take with you in the event of an evacuation. It should include emergency supplies for an extended period (at least a week). Put in items like bottled water, survival foods that have a long shelf life, clothing, a blanket and extra pair of comfortable shoes, shelter (like a tent), light and heat and other items. Anything that could get ruined if it got wet should be put in a waterproof container. Read more about what to include in your evacuation kit here.
- Shelter In Place Kit – this kit is meant if you are able to stay in your home during the hurricane. In addition to filling up your car with gas as soon as possible you should have the following basic items on hand…
- Survival water
- Water treatment tablets
- Long-term freeze-dried food
- Dried food staples such as rice and beans
- Canned food (make sure they are not expired)
- Can opener
- Cash in case the ATM machines are not working
- Extra batteries for cell phones, weather radio, etc
- Cooking set with fuel that is safe to use indoors
- Toilet kit – the one caution I would give to seniors using a toilet kit is to choose one that can withstand their weight and to use it in a location where they can use something to help themselves up and down from the bucket. To be extra careful because it could be very easy for someone with poor strength and/or balance to fall off these bucket toilets.
- Emergency lights – You can have flashlights handy but I like these light bulbs because they automatically come on if the power goes off. They last for 4-5 hours which can give you plenty of time to pull out other emergency lights.
- Any specialty items that you may require
- Pet Kits – if you have the love of a pet – then you will want to care for them as well in case of a hurricane or other emergency. I would recommend to then also have a pet emergency kit available. Put in anything you’ll need for pet care, including the animal’s food, medications, and important papers like their licenses and vaccinations (ie: rabies, etc).
It’s a good idea to put these kits together beforehand. Doing this will help most older adults to survive a hurricane as intact as possible.
Senior’s Checklist For Hurricane Preparedness
In addition to the kits mentioned above, the following checklist is specifically designed for older adults to help them prepare as much as possible for an oncoming hurricane.
- Cane users – I would recommend to pack a folding cane in your evacuation kit just in case.
- Walker / Wheelchair users – I would recommend to have replacement parts on hand. If you live in a remote type of area and you are using a wheelchair you can be extra safe and purchase an all terrain wheelchair like this one.
- Documents – Keep your important documents in a water proof document holder. I would also include serial numbers and operation manuals of any medical equipment that you may be using and will continue to need.
- Contact List – Many of us currently keep our list of friends, neighbors and family on our phones but I would recommend to create a paper list of their contact information, as well, and include it in your documents folder.
- Hearing aid batteries – Keep a couple sets of extra batteries for your hearing aids in your emergency kit.
- Eyewear – Also important to keep an extra pair or two of eyeglasses and sunglasses in your kit as well.
Of course, as mentioned above don’t forget medications, first aid kit, any medical devices that you need, some extra clothing, adult diapers, etc.
While it is impossible to be fully prepared for every situation, taking some time to plan and gather supplies ahead of time can help ease anxiety and make the experience less stressful should a hurricane (or any other emergency) strike.
So, seniors, take some time to get your emergency kits ready now so you’ll be as prepared as possible if a hurricane hits your area.
Don’t Forget A Hurricane Escape Plan
Seniors are one of the most vulnerable groups during a hurricane, so as we get older, our hurricane emergency plan might need to change. Sadly, something not many of us do is to create (and routinely practice) an evacuation plan if you need to escape at any point.
If you are a senior, or have aging parents and / or elderly relatives, and live in an area that is prone to hurricanes, it’s important to have a plan in place well before one hits.
Here are some things to keep in mind when making your hurricane escape plan:
- Evacuation Shelters – A list of evacuation shelters in your area is very important as you may not have the chance to make a list at the last minute. If you have a pet, make sure you have a plan for them as well. Many hurricane shelters do not allow pets (they will allow service animals, however), so you will need to make other arrangements for their care.
- Know Your Evacuation Route – If you live in a hurricane evacuation zone, make sure you know what route you will take to evacuate. Plan ahead and map out your route ahead of time.
- Transportation (How are you getting to the shelter?) – If you don’t have a car, or can’t drive, make arrangements with someone who can evacuate you if necessary. This could be a friend, family member, or even your local American Red Cross chapter.
- A Safe Meeting Point inside the shelter in case you get separated from loved ones or are unable to contact anyone.
- Evacuation Kit – As we discussed at the beginning of this article, make sure you have a hurricane kit prepared with all the essentials, like food, water, medicines, and first aid supplies. This needs to be ready at the start of hurricane season and located in a place where you can easily grab it. Also, keep important documents like your driver’s license, passport, and insurance information in a safe place where you can easily grab them if you need to evacuate.
- Stay Informed – Listen for updates about the hurricane and the latest information its on path from the National Weather Service via a weather radio (get a battery-operated radio so you can stay informed in case of power outages). This will help you know when it is time to take action and how to best prepare for the hurricane’s impact.
Taking into account the needs you have, you should consider signing up for Smart 911, an organization that works to provide you with the most accurate and eﬃcient help during an emergency.
For more information on how to prepare for a hurricane, you can visit the FEMA website or the National Hurricane Center website.