What seniors should know when preparing for a hurricane.
With hurricane season starting, it is important to have a plan in place for when the unexpected happens, especially for seniors. Many of these situations can be prepared for and eliminated with a well put together plan based on a senior’s needs and preferences.
Essential Items to Pack
Whether there is an evacuation or a stay at home situation, there are many essential items to consider when preparing for a hurricane:
- Canned Food or Non-perishable Food – things like soup, canned vegetables, crackers, peanut butter, cereal, granola bars and power bars are just some of these items. These items will last for a while, and can create hardy meals for seniors when food cannot be readily cooked or available. Plan to pack 3-5 days’ worth of food if seniors plan to evacuate, and 14-days’ worth of food if needing to stay put in their homes.
- Water – it is said that everyone should have at least 1-gallon of water per person, every day. Water is essential for hydration and when waterlines and plumbing are broken or shut off due to hurricane damage, it can leave many people without running water. Depending on the situation, consider the amount of water seniors will need, if staying in place or leaving for a mandatory evacuation.
- Pack of Batteries and Flashlights – when hurricanes hit, powerlines can be knocked down or disconnected, having blocks of cities lose power for days or sometimes weeks. Having a flashlight and an extra set of batteries can help seniors be able to navigate through the dark without difficulty.
- Portable Chargers – if seniors have smartphones, a portable charger can come in handy. Make sure that the portable charger is charged fully so when a phone battery goes to 0%, seniors will be able to recharge their phones, having access to emergency apps and contacts they can call when in need.
- Portable Weather Radio/Radio Apps – being in the know is important when preparing for a hurricane. A portable weather radio or a radio app on a smartphone can allow seniors to listen in on important updates about the storm and mandatory evacuation notices. Portable weather radios are durable and long-lasting, and will immediately alert seniors on important hurricane updates. Seniors are recommended to buy a portable radio with a hand crank to be able to manually recharge the battery. Radio apps are also an effective way to stay quickly informed about important updates right form their smartphone. Some of these apps include: Spectrum Bay News 9, and NextRadio – Live FM Radio.
- Hurricane Emergency Apps – if seniors have a smartphone, some apps can be helpful in being aware leading up to, during, and after the hurricane. Apps like: Hurricane Tracker, Hurricane – American Red Cross, NOAA Now, SirenGPS Mobile, Zello Walkie Talkie, Trusted Contacts, Pet First Aid, FEMA, ReUnite, and Facebook; can help keep seniors informed on updates about the storm, can help first responders locate seniors and families who need help, and have ways to reconnect and keep in touch making sure everyone is okay after the hurricane.
- Medication – if seniors are prescribed medication and have a regimen to follow, it is important to properly pack enough medication for at least 14-days in proper sterile containers. Seniors or loved ones should make sure that their prescriptions are up-to-date and are refilled if low.
- Hygienic Necessities – these include toilet paper, paper towels, toiletries and anything that might be necessary to stay healthy and clean for at least 7-days.
- Clothing – seniors should try and keep at least one set of clothes for travel. Things like comfortable sweatpants, t-shirts, socks, and a pair of shoes. Depending on the weather conditions, seniors might also want to pack clothing that’ll keep them warm or dry. Seniors should also consider bringing towels, blankets, and a favorite pillow to stay comfortable if evacuating to a shelter.
- Cash and bank cards – Automated Teller Machines (ATMs) might not be in working order when a hurricane hits. Seniors should carry cash if they need to buy essential items or food. They should also keep bank cards on hand so they do not become lost or stolen.
- Handheld can opener – bringing along a manually operated handheld can opener, if evacuating, allows seniors to easily open their canned food.
- Essential Pet Items – if seniors have pets, it is important to bring along essential items when evacuating to keep them comfortable and healthy. Certain items include: a bowl or bowls, medication (if pets are on any type of regimen), a food supply for at least 3-5 days, a toy, leash, collar, and any documentation relating to their up-to-date shots and medical history.
- Entertainment – with no electricity to search the internet, or watch a favorite tv show or movie; seniors should have a way to relax and have fun. If leaving their home during an evacuation, they should think about bringing a favorite book, magazine, a deck of playing cards, or an enjoyable board game.
- Smartphone/ Cell Phone – it is important to have a way to contact anyone in case of emergencies. Seniors should have cell phones with an extra battery, or a portable charging cell to keep their phone from dying.
- Contact Information – things like emergency hotlines, family members or close friends contact information are important to have on hand for when plans are interrupted or if seniors need help.
- Important Documents and Valuables – it’s important to backup vital documents in case of damage to a home or property. These documents include: birth certificates, passports, medical history, a list of prescriptions, valuable homeownership documents, and social security cards. Seniors should make copies of these documents, or secure them in a protective laminated bag to carry with them when evacuating. It’s also important to entrust house keys and car keys with a trusted friend or family member so they don’t become lost.
- Medical Kits and Instructions – one thing to always have when preparing for any hurricane is a first aid kit. Seniors should make sure their first aid kits are packed with the latest sterile medical material and instructions on how to properly use medical items in case of emergencies.
Seniors should also keep in mind a couple of other tips when packing. They should put Identifiers on their bags and accessible equipment (i.e. tags, string, name, etc.) to keep track of them, and to make sure evacuation bags are easy to move and travel with. These items and tips are essential in preparing for a hurricane or natural disaster. However, just as essential as these items and tips is a plan that is executed to stay safe.
What Constitutes Proper Planning?
As with any proper plan, steps need to be set to successfully execute that plan. Depending on living situations seniors should talk to their family members, close friends, and care partners to understand and create a plan that will help keep them safe during a hurricane.
Some tips on constructing a good plan:
- If seniors live alone, they should set up a plan to call and reach out to family members or friends for support, and information. This way, seniors can safely evacuate to a secure location with their family members if needed. Always communicate and review planning procedures to ensure that it is understood by everyone who is involved.
- Find and create specific routes to follow if needing to evacuate. Map out certain meeting locations if homes are not a viable option.
- If a loved one lives in a senior living community, understand that community’s plan. It is important to know what to expect and to ensure that the resident is well informed and aware.
- Check for loose fixtures and shelving that could cause an accident if left uninspected in a senior’s home. If a senior cannot evacuate, prepare and run through scenarios to locate safe spots inside the home for them to stay safe during extreme weather conditions.
- Seniors should make sure that they have a ready to go bag full of essential items for quick and easy access when evacuating.
- A stockpile of food and water for emergency use only is a sure way to be properly prepared in case of power outages during a hurricane.
- Have a backup plan if interruptions happen to the original plan. Review all available options and determine which will be the most effective.
- Create plans to accommodate pets, and seniors who might need help evacuating because of certain health conditions. For pets, families should research the surrounding area for veterinarian offices, and hotels that allow pets to be safely housed during the hurricane. For seniors who might need mobility help, place proper accessible equipment (i.e. wheelchairs, crutches, walkers, etc.) in easy to find locations in case of evacuation.
Whenever seniors are planning, it is always a great idea to loop family members and friends in on those plans. Seniors should pack based on necessity and comfort, while being able to act quickly if needing to evacuate. With a correct plan in place, and essential items, seniors will be well prepared to stay safe during a hurricane.