BASIC TIPS IN EMERGENCY PREPAREDNESS FOR SENIORS & PEOPLE WITH DISABILITIES
In the event of a serious disaster everyone should be self-sufficient for at least three days without help or emergency services, with streets closed and with no stores open. There may be no electricity, gas, water or telephone service. Remember your home is the best place to stay -- if it is not too badly damaged to be safe.
THE MOST IMPORTANT THINGS TO HAVE:
Bottled water (3 gallons per person in small, easy open bottles)
Several flashlights (By the bed and around the house; electricity may be out)
One week supply of medicines (rotated regularly) and instructions for use --
dosage, frequency, doctor's name and phone; post this information on your refrigerator under the heading EMERGENCY INSTRUCTIONS.
First aid kit
Shoes under the bed (To protect feet from broken glass - windows, lamps, etc.)
Fire extinguisher (Know how to use it)
Smoke alarm (Check the battery once a year; for people who are hearing impaired consider a flashing light alarm)
Battery operated radio or TV (To listen for information about the disaster)
Whistle or loud bell (To attract attention)
Wrench for gas turn-off (Use only if you or someone else smells gas)
Garbage bags (For personal waste)
OTHER IMPORTANT THINGS YOU MAY NEED:
Non perishable, ready to eat food (candied food and juices, dried fruit, crackers, etc.)
Manual can opener (Electricity may not be available)
Extra eye glasses, hearing aid, mobility aids, etc. (For equipment damage)
Extra blankets (With electricity out you may not have heat)
Toilet paper, paper towels, paper plates, personal hygiene supplies
Pet food and extra water for pets or service animal
OTHER GOOD-TO-HAVE SUPPLIES:
Rubber or heavy gloves, broom, etc. (To clean up for broken glass)
Duct tape, masking tape
Money (Banks may be closed)
THINGS TO DO WITH YOUR HOME:
Eliminate Hazards in your home. Securely anchor medical equipment, appliances, bookcases, hanging plants, etc. Place heavy objects on low shelves. Fasten water heater to the wall. Identify a desk, table or other safe place that you can quickly get under for protection during an earthquake.
Know the location of your electrical box and gas and water shut-off valves.
Install child-proof latches to keep cupboard. doors closed.
Keep family or personal records in a watertight, fireproof container.
SPECIAL PLANNING TIPS:
Develop a "buddy" system with family, fiends, neighbors, or co-workers. Plan how you will help each other in an emergency.
Prepare are an emergency go kit that you could grab and take with you if there is a need to evacuate. Include necessary medications, basic toiletries, any special sanitary aids, and whom to contact in emergencies.
Make a list of your medications, allergies, special equipment, doctor's number,. and whom to contact in emergencies. People who have difficulty with communication should have other important information written out, such as special toileting needs, or how to lift or move them. Give a copy to each buddy, keep a copy with you, and put a copy in your go kit (above).
Make a plan with your personal care attendant. If you use an attendant from an agency, see if the agency has special provisions for emergencies.
Determine at least two usable exits from each room and from your building.
Pick one out-of-state and one local friend or relative for family and others to call if separated. Identify a location where you can reunite with family/friends.
SPECIAL TIPS DURING AND AFTER AN EARTHQUAKE:
Duck, cover and hold. Get down and underneath a sturdy object (table or desk)
If you are in a bed or out of a wheelchair, stay put and cover your head.
If you are in a wheelchair, stay in it and go into a doorway that doesn't have a door. Cover your head and neck with your hands.
Be prepared for aftershocks. Turn on your portable radio for instructions.
Special Issues for Seniors to Consider in Preparing for Earthquakes
What preparedness advice is offered for seniors who rely on equipment and assistive devices (e.g., hearing aids, wheelchairs, crutches, walkers, respirators, eye glasses, etc.)?
Keep important equipment and assistive devices in a consistent, convenient and secured place so you can quickly and easily locate them after the shaking.
Develop an emergency kit where extra hearing aids, batteries, eye glasses, etc., are kept, to replace damaged or lost equipment in an earthquake.
Store extra mobility aids (e.g., canes, crutches, walkers, wheelchairs), as a backup to primary equipment.
How can seniors, who rely on personal attendants or care givers to provide assistance, prepare for the fact this support may not be available after a major earthquake?
If you employ a personal attendant, use the services of a home health agency, or other type of in-home service, discuss with these people a plan for what you will do in case of an emergency.
A critical element to consider in emergency planning is the establishment of a personal support network or buddy system. This network can consist of friends, neighbors, family members, relatives, etc. Their job is to check with you in an emergency to ensure you are okay and help where needed.
Do not to depend on any one person, but work out support relationships with several people.
As aging may limit certain self-sufficiency skills, what contingencies should older adults prepare for following an emergency?
Evaluate your capabilities, limitations and needs, as well as your surroundings, to determine what type of help your personal support network may need to provide in an emergency.
Will you be able to independently shut off the necessary utilities (gas, water, electricity)?
Can you operate a fire extinguisher?
Do you have an evacuation kit that you can quickly grab and carry if you must leave your home? (Include necessary medications, toiletries, any special sanitary aids, and emergency contact information -- see item #5)
Have you moved or secured large objects that might block your escape path?
Write instructions for the following (keep a copy with you and share with your personal support network)
How to turn off utilities
How to operate and safely move any essential equipment you have
How to safely transport you if you need to be carried
How to provide personal assistance services
How you will evacuate, and where you will go
How can older persons, who may have physical impairments that limit mobility, address these evacuation needs?
Arrange and secure furniture and other items to provide multiple paths of travel.
Consider and practice using alternate methods of evacuation.
If elevators are out and you are above the first floor of a building and can not use stairs, identify lifting and carrying techniques that will work for you.
The need for seniors to have important information readily available is critical in case of injury, evacuation, or as a result of shock given the trauma of the event. What information is most helpful to document?
Documenting important life saving information is vital. Create an emergency health information card (see the Salvation Army's PREP Kit) to communicate to rescuers what they need to know about you if you are unconscious, incoherent, or if there is a need for your evacuation.
The card should contain information about medications, equipment you use, communication, hearing or mobility difficulties, preferred treatment, medical providers, and important contact people. Make multiple copies of this card to keep in your wallet, give to people in your personal support network, and post on your refrigerator (easily done with the PREP Kit).
Other emergency contacts to list include members of your personal support network, equipment vendors, doctors, family members, and utility companies.
In addition, store copies of family records, wills, deeds, social security number, charge and bank accounts, etc., in your emergency kit.
Given that tap water may be contaminated following a major earthquake, how do we prepare older persons who are more susceptible to dehydration?
It is vital that seniors maintain a minimum of three gallons of stored water - one gallon per day for a 3-day period. Store water in sealed unbreakable containers that are easy to handle (e.g., small, easy to open bottles).
Replace stored water with fresh water every six months.
Many older adults may have hypertension and therefore food should be low in sodium. Similarly, diabetic elderly require foods reduced in sugar.
When developing a three-day food supply, it is important that seniors pay attention to special foods they require.
Being older means feeling more vulnerable. In a major disaster, feelings of acute anxiety, confusion and fear will be issues as critical for seniors as their physical condition.
Again, seniors are strongly encouraged to develop a buddy system or personal support network. Someone who can check in following an emergency will become an important ally in alleviating earthquake induced stress. Seniors may want individuals who form their personal support network to:
Check on them immediately after an emergency (earthquake), and offer personal assistance as needed.
Have a spare copy of important keys.
Know where emergency supplies are kept.
Have copies of relevant emergency documents that specify medication, special equipment, and other life support needs.
Have an agreed upon communications system regarding how to contact each other in an emergency. This plan should account for the fact that telephones may not work after a major earthquake.
To know when each other will be out of town and the subsequent date of return.
Learn about their personal needs and how to be of support in an emergency (e.g., interpreting, or making sure food, water, and medications are in place).
What special preparedness tips can be offered for seniors who take necessary medications?
Try to always maintain at least a 7 to 14 day supply of essential medications.
Work with your doctor to obtain an extra supply of medication, or prescription.
Ask if it would be safe to go without one dosage periodically, until you secure an adequate supply.
Keep essential medications and copies of prescriptions with you.
The above is a very condensed version of the more comprehensive Earthquake Tips for People with Disabilities Package developed by the INDEPENDENT LIVING RESOURCE CENTER OF SAN FRANCISCO. The package comes with Earthquake Tips for People with a Specific Disability (i.e., Mobility, Visual, Communication, Cognitive, Psychiatric, Hearing, etc.), Tips for Collecting Emergency Documents, Tips for Creating an Emergency Health Information Card, a Checklist and Fact Sheet.