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Do You Have an Emergency Plan? Considerations for Seniors

For seniors, preparing for emergency situations by planning ahead and assembling supplies is of paramount importance, even if the circumstances might not be as severe for others.

Natural and human-made disasters strike without notice anytime, anywhere. Serious disasters can have devastating consequences, and even less serious disasters can damage possessions or displace people from their homes -- sometimes for a while and other times permanently.

For seniors, planning ahead and assembling vital supplies like medications and water is of paramount importance — even if the circumstances might not be as severe for others.

If you are a senior, these steps can help you prepare for disaster scenarios.

Create a support network

When you create emergency plans, make a list of the members of your support network. Your network can work together to execute an emergency plan during a disaster and ensure everyone in the network is safe. Each member should have a role.

“Do not depend on only one person," the Federal Emergency Management Agency says. "Include a minimum of three people in your network for each location where you regularly spend a lot of time since people work different shifts, take vacations and are not always available."

Because many seniors live independently from children and other relatives, include neighbors, friends, extended family members or caregivers in your support system.

Prepare for common disasters

Optimize your preparation by researching the disasters most likely to strike your area. You can find a list of potential disasters and hazards in your state and city on government websites.

For example, the USGS Earthquake Hazards Program and the National Earthquake Hazards Reduction Program provide maps of seismic epicenters and data about historical earthquake magnitude around the United States.

The National Flood Risk Awareness Survey has information about your area's susceptibility to flooding.

Write a plan

The easiest way to write your emergency plan is to download a template. Use the template to structure your plan, including where your support network should meet in case of an emergency, a list of what you should bring, a list of contact numbers and other steps your team should take during disasters.

"Know how and when to turn off water, gas and electricity at the main switches or valves and share this information with your family and caregivers," FEMA says. "Keep any tools you will need near gas and water shut-off valves."

Gather vital supplies, like medication, eyeglasses, water and a survival kit. Check out the Red Cross senior disaster item checklist for ideas of what to include.

Build a survival kit

Consider what you must have for daily survival, including medications, and put those items in a box or bag that's easily accessible.

"Keep your supplies in an easy-to-carry emergency preparedness kit that you can use at home or take with you in case you must evacuate," the Red Cross recommends.

Disasters can prevent rescue crews from getting to areas for weeks, so it's critical to have enough supplies in your kit to keep you alive and well if you need to wait for help. For example, the Red Cross recommends a gallon of water per person per day for emergency preparedness. It also offers a list of other emergency supplies like non-perishable food and flashlights.

Find out community disaster plans

Many communities create plans you can incorporate into your network preparation. Your community may also offer emergency training.

"The Community Emergency Response Team program educates volunteers about disaster preparedness for the hazards that may impact their area and trains them in basic disaster response skills, such as fire safety, light search and rescue, team organization, and disaster medical operations," says.

Know where to check in

A critical part of your emergency plan is getting in contact with your support network, emergency services and family members outside your vicinity.

As part of your emergency plan, write a long-distance contact phone number that all members of your support network can call. If phone lines are down in your area, someone outside of your local area will be easier to reach.

In the event of an emergency, you can also register yourself as safe at the American Red Cross Safe and Well website or call 800-RED CROSS (800-733-2767) and select the prompt for "Disaster.” No one knows when a disaster will strike, but by being prepared you can make sure that you’re ready for the unexpected.

ComForCare of Palm Beach Gardens offers private-duty, non-medical home health care. In addition to standard services like meal preparation and light housekeeping, ComForCare creates an Emergency Evacuation Plan for each of its clients. Based on the needs of clients and their families, ComForCare can call to check in or even arrange for a caregiver to visit and stay with elderly and ill clients in disaster situations. To learn more, visit

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