Emergencies can happen at any time, with our without warning. Having a plan can help keep your older loved ones safe, whether the emergency is a natural disaster or a terrorist attack. Think about the kinds of emergencies that may happen in their area — earthquakes, floods, tornadoes — and how they will be notified about them.
To prepare older loved ones for any emergency, you should ensure they have access to certain important information such as:
- Driver’s license or other photo ID
- Insurance cards
- Utility bills
- Phone numbers for doctor, veterinarian, pharmacy
- Police and fire department phone numbers
- List of medications
- Instructions for medical devices and equipment
Once you have helped them gather this information, record it in a booklet or online. Share this plan with at least two other people, but more importantly, review it and update it as needed.
Ask a relative who is local as well as an out-of-town relative or friend to serve as their emergency contacts. If a disaster occurs, encourage them to call the out-of town contact first, as it is often easier to call from outside of the affected area. The out-of-town person should be within a few hours driving distance.
Make contact information including cell phone and Skype numbers is always kept current. Now might be a good time to introduce social networking to elderly family members. As current events have highlighted, sites like Twitter, Facebook and Skype can be lifelines to the outside and may be the only way to communicate with family.
Make a plan
Identify three family members or friends that live close to your family member. Discuss any special needs the older person might have. Are they wheelchair or oxygen dependent, cognitively impaired, or diabetic? Do they speak English? How will these special needs be met?
Make an emergency kit
Collect important items that will help the elderly person to stay indoors in the event of an emergency. If an evacuation is required, a smaller version of the kit should go with them. The following are essential items:
- One gallon of water per person for three days
- Non-perishable food such as canned or packaged foods
- One change of clothes and footwear per person
- List of medications
- Flashlight with extra batteries
- Battery powered, hand-crank radio
- Hygiene items such as soap, toilet paper and toothbrush
- First aid basics such as band aids and antiseptic spray
Stress the importance of monitoring emergency channels and following all instructions. If they need to evacuate, plan for a place to meet directly outside the home, as well as another location. Draw a plan or route on paper and, if possible, enter and store information on a GPS device. Discuss what it means to shelter in place. Review the safest room, number of doors, windows, etc.
With all of the media attention surrounding the recent snowstorms, ice storms and political unrest, now might be the right time to discuss this important issue with older family members.