How do we help older adults in an emergency? Don’t wait for a disaster to find out.

The other afternoon, my colleagues and I attended a disaster/emergency preparedness training conducted by the City of Philadelphia’s Department of Public Health.  The training presented common-sense but necessary ideas, such as assembling an emergency kit, identifying a safe room, educating your family members on where to meet and writing down emergency numbers.  The presenters also helped us think about things older adults especially need to do, such as writing down model numbers of medical equipment and dosage for medicine.   
When I returned to my desk, I coincidentally found an e-newsletter article about a nursing home that was destroyed during the recent tornado in Joplin, MO. According to the article, the nursing home had the highest number of fatalities of any location in the Joplin area.  Unfortunately, we have read similar stories in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and the tsunami that devastated Japan.
As an advocate, I started thinking about how we can better help seniors prepare for disasters:
·         I encourage you to sign up for your state/city/town’s emergency notification system.  In Pennsylvania, it is  If you live in a different state, conduct an internet search for your state’s system.  Also find one for your town.
·         If you have an elderly relative, client or friend who lives in a senior apartment building, nursing home, personal care home or other residential place, don’t be afraid to ask the staff there: Do you have an emergency preparedness plan?  How will you contact us in an emergency?  How can we contact you?
·         If you are a caregiver or an older adult lives with you, make sure to include the older adult’s needs and abilities in the plan.  For example, if grandma sleeps on the second floor and the safe room is on the first floor, can you easily get her down the stairs?  Make sure the senior understands the emergency plan.
·         If an older adult lives with you and it is appropriate, give her a cell phone that is programmed to dial 911 and teach her how to text.
Thinking about disasters can be scary and uncomfortable (unless it’s a cheesy movie from the 70’s).  However, preparation can make a huge difference and can save lives.
By David Rosenberg, CARIE LINE Manager at CARIE. Visit or contact CARIE at 1-800-356-3606.  
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