Nothing is more terrifying than receiving an evacuation order, especially when you are elderly and mostly homebound. Older adults are among the most vulnerable when disaster strikes. That is why it is critical that aging adults and those who care for them prepare for emergencies. Having a plan in place will ease anxiety and eliminate many of the hardships endured in a crisis.
Last winter, a group of older adults experienced a two-week power outage when a massive ice storm hit the Greater Rochester, New York area. They admitted that they were not prepared for such an event. After enduring the two week-crisis, they worked with the Red Cross to create a plan called Disaster Preparedness for Seniors by Seniors. Download the plan here.
Truckee residents were recently plagued with rumors about potential power-outages conducted by PG&E as fire safety prevention protocols. Although Truckee was in PG&E’s affected county, residents were not directly affected because power comes from Truckee Donner Public Utility District (TDPUD), not PG&E. Even though the population of Truckee was not directly affected this time, many just outside of town were and it reminds us all that we need to be prepared. Follow the steps below to prepare for and respond in an emergency.
The Three Steps to Preparedness
- Create a Plan
- Have a Kit
- Be Informed
Step 1: Create an Emergency Plan
- Have an emergency communications plan. Create a group text or a phone call chain (a plan in which you make an initial call to one person, who then calls the next person, and so on). This will make sure that all relatives and friends know what is happening in the event of an emergency.
- Keep contact information complete and up-to-date. Have the current numbers of people you’ll need to contact in an emergency. Make sure those people have your phone number and the number of nearby friends or neighbors. Put an extra copy of these in a travel wallet, purse, or suitcase.
- Make travel arrangements in case of evacuation. Talk to family members (or the directors of the facility where you live) about what you would do in the event of an evacuation. Will you be able to drive, or will you need someone to pick you up? If so, who, and at what meeting place? Who can provide a back-up ride, and how will that person be contacted? You may also want to ask the director to designate staff who will stay with a very elderly adult during an evacuation.
- Choose a meeting place in case of evacuation. Pick two meeting places—one near your home, the other outside the neighborhood—where you can wait, and relatives can find you. Make sure everyone has the address and phone number of the meeting location. If you are caring for an older adult who lives in a facility, find out where he or she will be taken in case of evacuation.
- Get local emergency information in advance. Get a community disaster/emergency plan for your area. Learn where evacuees go for medical care or emergency supplies of medications. Get a map of evacuation routes to keep in your car.
- Exercise mock-disaster scenarios. Go over your emergency plan and practice with family and friends to make sure it is ready to be executed if needed.
- Consider getting a medical ID bracelet. Consider ordering a medical ID bracelet or pendant for people with chronic health problems. Information on medical conditions, allergies, medications, and emergency contacts can be engraved on the surface. For very elderly or disabled adults, put the identification information, list of diagnoses, and medications in a traveler’s wallet that can be worn in an emergency.
Step 2: Stock an Emergency Kit
The single most important element of emergency preparedness is a survival kit. These materials will be used to sustain you while in a crisis.
An emergency kit should include:
- Medications. A 3-6 day supply of your medications along with an up-to-date medication list that includes the names (brand and generic) of any drugs you’re taking and the doses. An insulated bag big enough to hold a two-week supply of any medications that require refrigeration, such as insulin. Keep ice packs in the freezer for the emergency medical kit.
- Medical equipment and necessities. Include items such as blood sugar monitoring equipment, a blood pressure cuff, hearing aids/hearing aid batteries, and an extra pair of eyeglasses and/or dentures.
- Written information about treatment. Ask your healthcare provider for copies of your medical records and lists of all active medical problems you have and how they’re being treated. Carry extra copies of Medicare, Medicaid or other insurance information with you.
- Water. Plan for at least 1 gallon per person per day, and at least a 3-day supply.
- Food. At least a 3-day supply of canned and dried foods that won’t spoil. Juices, soups, and high-protein shakes may be particularly helpful.
- Basic supplies. A manual can opener, flashlight, battery-powered or hand-cranked radio, batteries, waterproof matches, knife, resealable plastic bags, tin foil, disposable cups, plates, utensils, basic cooking utensils, emergency whistle, and cell phone with chargers, battery bank, or solar charger.
- Maps. Local and regional maps in case roads are blocked and you need to take detours.
- Change of clothing & blankets. A complete set of clothing per person: a long-sleeved shirt, long pants, shoes, and weather-appropriate outerwear. Also, include one blanket per person.
- Contact info and key papers. Have the phone numbers and addresses of friends and relatives you might need to contact, your healthcare provider, and any specialists you see. Also, include copies of your credit and identification cards.
- Cash. It’s a good idea to have at least $50 on hand; if that’s not possible, include as much as you can.
- First Aid kit. See the Red Cross’s comprehensive list of what to pack in your first aid kit. The Red Cross also sells pre-packaged first aid kits.
- Basic hygiene products. Include soap, toothpaste, toothbrushes, sunscreen, hand sanitizer, toilet paper, baby wipes, and a few trash bags for garbage.
Red Cross and many others have premade kits you can buy with many of the items already included. If it’s easier to shop for a kit, browse the Red Cross Kits here.
Step 3: Be Informed
Being informed is the next step in emergency preparedness. All local jurisdictions have a system in place to communicate with the community. See the information below.
The Truckee Police Department has a program is called Nixle.
If you have a landline, a cell phone, tablet or computer, you can sign up to receive emergency alerts from the Truckee Police Department via Nixle. To sign up, follow this link:
Nixle sign-up: https://nixle.com/register/
Or, text: 96161 to 888777
Placer County uses a system called Citizen Alert. Sign-up here:
Nevada County uses the service called Code Red. Sign-up here: https://www.mynevadacounty.com/2713/Emergency-Alerts
Washoe County, Nevada
Washoe County uses the program called Code Red. Sign-up here: https://www.washoecounty.us/em/RegionalAlerts.php
Make sure your friends, neighbors, and family sign up too.
Next, have a conversation with those in your support network: your friends, family and neighbors. Let the know your needs in an emergency; ask how they could assist with your plan and whether they would be willing to help. Consider that during some emergencies travel is severely limited and they may not be able to get to you.
Don’t Get Caught Unprepared
To avoid getting caught unprepared, we urge you to review the lists provided and the document Disaster Preparedness For Seniors By Seniors. If there are family or friends nearby, let them support you. Don’t worry about not appearing independent. Everyone needs help when disaster strikes.
Sierra Senior Services is the local Meals on Wheels provider covering 860 miles of the Greater Truckee/Lake Tahoe region. We provide home-delivered meals, community dining, and social connection, and coordinates additional support services that empower seniors to continue living independently. Recipients are individuals 60 years of age or older who have diminished capacity in at least two of the following areas: walking, transferring, standing, bathing, dressing, preparing a meal or mental competency, are eligible to participate. Sierra Senior Services is a California 501-(c)-3 Non-profit Corporation · Tax ID 68-0484075 Contribute today!
“Emergency Preparedness for Older Adults.” HealthInAging.org, 2019, www.healthinaging.org/tools-and-tips/emergency-preparedness-older-adults.
Childs, Jan Wesner, and Ron Brackett. “Wildfire Threat Diminishes for Parts of California; Thousands Remain Under Evacuation Order.” The Weather Channel, The Weather Channel, 12 Oct. 2019, weather.com/news/news/2019-10-11-california-wildfires-grow-power-outages-continue.
Bacon, John, et al. “Almost 2 Million Californians Could Be without Power through Thursday in Shutdown to Reduce Wildfire Risk.” USA Today, Gannett Satellite Information Network, 10 Oct. 2019, www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2019/10/09/california-pge-power-outage-affect-millions-prevent-wildfire/3916848002/.
California, Truckee. “Truckee Donner Public Utility District.” Truckee Donner Public Utility District | Home, 2019, www.tdpud.org/?fbclid=IwAR2h1mPdVxj3DZ1SqU6MVh1pkIzzNMGbf050IV5xm173U4UOTjJWfwdOxA4.
Red Cross. “Survival Kit Supplies.” What Do You Need In a Survival Kit | American Red Cross, 2019, www.redcross.org/get-help/how-to-prepare-for-emergencies/survival-kit-supplies.html.