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Published: Feb 16th, 2019

Natural Disaster Preparation for You & Older Family Members

Natural Disaster Challenge – Preparation for You & Older Family Members

There is no way to prevent natural disasters, but we can prepare for them. No one wants the worst-case scenario to happen, yet we need to be ready in case it does. Here is what you need to know to protect your home and family.

For older adults who may live else, you should be sure they are ready as well. They may require additional preparation due to physical disability or cognitive decline. The better the advance plan the less worry for you and the rest of the family.

Create an Emergency Kit

Having an emergency kit can save lives. For instance, you will need enough non-perishable food and water to last three days, and any necessary medications. As well, think about the specific needs of any seniors or pets that live with you. You'll also want a permanent ink pen and paper in case you have to leave a note or create a sign. Buy standard safety equipment, including gloves, hand-crank flashlights, a battery-powered weather radio, and a respirator. Have some emergency cash on hand, as well as maps of the area and medical supplies. Additionally, don’t forget that a disaster can overwhelm your home. You may have to reinforce your property or dig your way out. Have tools on hand for just such a situation.

CDC emergency kit

Earthquake Preparedness

Unfortunately, earthquakes strike without warning. The best way to ensure your safety is to have emergency kits in your home, car, and workplace. A fire extinguisher should also be on hand in case electrical damage starts a fire. You may not have phone service, so have a plan in place in case this happens. For instance, you could designate a person to pick up your kids at school or check in on a senior relative. To lessen the chance of injury to you and your loved ones, secure shelving and heavy furniture to the walls and floor. Also, keep weighty objects on lower shelves and attach latches to cabinets to prevent contents breaking on the floor. Above all, remember that the safest place to be indoors is against an inside wall, not near any glass.

CDC earthquake

Tornado Preparedness

Tornados are one of the most dangerous natural disasters there are. To keep your family safe, make sure everyone knows the location of the nearest evacuation center. If you have an elderly relative with memory problems, task someone with their safety. Should you have enough warning, secure all windows by closing curtains or blinds. Assign a space in your house as the safe room during a tornado; If you have a basement or cellar, use that. Otherwise, choose the centermost room on the first floor with no windows, and stay indoors throughout any storm. Your battery-operated radio will keep you updated with instructions and information.

CDC tornado

Tsunami Preparedness

Tsunamis require evacuation, but this is not always possible since they can hit quickly with little warning. If you are at the beach and the water dramatically recedes, you need to leave immediately. Do not wait to see if a wave arrives; by the time you see it, it is too late. If you have children in class, know where the pick-up is in the event of a disaster. It may be at the school itself or somewhere higher. Your city should have an evacuation route in place, so make sure everyone in the family knows it. Collect your family and pets, and immediately get as far inland and high up as you can. It could make the difference between life and death.

House Fire Preparedness

A small blaze can be put out by a fire extinguisher. If it becomes too large, you need to collect your family and escape. Smoke rises, so crawl on the floor. Avoid exits if a doorknob is hot as that indicates danger.

If you are stuck with no hope of escape, block up vents and the crack between the door and floor with fabric. Hang something out the window to alert others of your position. Whenever possible, try to call 911, or seek help once you escape

Fire Escape Plan

Time counts. An escape plan is worth the effort so you and your family know exactly what to do if the time comes. The idea is to get out of your home as fast as possible.

Ideally, practice your escape plan a few times a year. For older adults, walk through the steps they need to take to help them get out of their home safely. 

These tips can be helpful:

  • Find at least two ways to get out of a room if the primary way is blocked by fire or smoke.
  • A secondary route might be difficult for the young or the old. Be sure they have the ability to use these secondary routes. This could be leaving from a window, for example.
  • Make sure that windows are operable. Screens should be able to be taken out quickly or be pushed out easily.
  • Practice feeling your way out of the house in the dark or with your eyes closed.
  • Teach children not to hide from a firefighter.

Fire Escape Planning for Older Adults

Older people will always be the safest living on the ground floor if they live in an apartment building. If your older Mom or Dad live in a multi-story home, try to arrange for them to sleep on the ground floor near an exit.

If they use a walker or wheelchair, all exits should be checked that they to be sure they can get through the doorways. If not already done, make sure any necessary accommodations, such as exit ramps and widening of doorways are in place to help with an emergency escape.

If you don’t live nearby, speaking to trusted neighbors about your fire safety plan and practice it with them.

You can also speak with your local fire department. Drop by a fire station or call the non-emergency phone number and explain your concerns for your older family member. Also, make sure your loved one has a telephone by their bed or a medical alert which can call 911 for them. 

For your elderly loved ones, help them be prepared by putting together the tools they’ll need in case of an emergency. A weather radio is helpful for older folks since they are hands-free and create a loud alert when an event is expected. Also, get to know their neighbors. If disaster strikes, you’ll need all the local contacts you can get so you can keep track of their situation.

No one wants to consider the devastation of a natural disaster. However, with the right preparation, you have the best chance of staying as safe as possible.