5 Emergency Preparedness Steps for Seniors in Case of a Hurricane!
Seniors need special supplies in case of an emergency. They require adequate food, water, and medicine; have a backup energy supply to run medical equipment, and have a list of emergency contact information.
Hurricane season is upon us, bringing back memories of Hurricane Sandy, the 2012 super storm that devastated twenty-four states. At the height of the storm, over 7.5 million people were without power.
Most of us were not as prepared as we could have been when Sandy hit. Seniors in particular suffered special hardships. Many elderly people were trapped in high-rise apartments with no air-conditioning, no elevator service, and no access to necessary health services. New York City is fortunate that it has so many good Samaritans and community services that helped our seniors get through the crisis.
Now that we have literally weathered one storm, we should be able to prepare for another. All people should make an effort to store adequate supplies of food, water and other necessities during hurricane season but seniors should be particularly vigilant. They should consider not only storing adequate food and water in their homes but should anticipate their medical needs. This should include keeping an extra supply of medication on hand, finding backup power sources for critical home medical equipment, and developing plans in case health care services are unavailable.
Here are five steps seniors should take to weather another super storm:
1. Collect Emergency Supplies
Seniors are more prone to dehydration than younger people. They should stock enough emergency water for at least a week. A rule of thumb for seniors is to store at least one gallon of water per person per day. This is equivalent to about one six pack of bottled water per day. If a pet is involved, be sure to put aside enough water for him as well.
Stash away enough non-perishable food for a week. This can include a variety of canned foods such as prepared soups, tuna, sardines and vegetables. Other foods that can be stored include dried nuts, fruits, peanut butter and crackers. Don’t forget to pack a manual bottle opener and can opener if power goes out. If your hands are too arthritic to use a manual can opener, purchase one that runs on batteries—and don’t forget the batteries.
2. Prepare for Medical Emergencies
Create an emergency notebook that contains essential health information and place it next to the phone. The notebook should contain a copy of your Medicare card, secondary insurance information, and credit cards account numbers. Write out a list off all doctors, their specialties, and their contact information. Include their emergency phone numbers as well as office phones.
Record all medications, dosages, and when they should be taken. Note the prescription number and phone number of the pharmacist. It’s important to have all this information in a place that is readily accessible.
3. Register All Life Sustaining Medical Equipment
Some seniors require special life support equipment such as respirators, dialysis machines, or diabetic sugar monitors. All this equipment should be registered with the local utility company, such as Con Ed. Utility companies are required to maintain records on residents who are dependent on medical equipment so the company will give priority to restoring power to them.
Register all medical equipment information with the equipment supplier. Each supplier should provide its users with back up generators that insure the equipment continues to work until power is restored.
4. Create a Personal Emergency Network
Make sure that someone is aware of your presence at all times. Do you have a friend who lives near by? Ask if he or she will check on you in case of emergency. If you don’t have a friend living in the vicinity, find out if your building or neighborhood association has a network for contacting residents in case of emergency.
Some apartment complexes appoint a representative per floor who is responsible for checking each apartment in case of an emergency. Some buildings even set up a system of placing a brightly colored index cards outside each resident’s apartment to indicate their presence. The card is not removed until the inhabitant is evacuated.
5. Check on Home Health Attendant Services
If you require a daily home attendant, check on the agency’s official emergency care policy. All certified home health agencies are required to develop a written safety plan for each patient when they sign up with the agency.
The agency nurse assigns each client a priority code based on her required level of care in case of emergency. A Level 1 patient requires twenty-four hour care. This means an agency must insure that an aide stay with a patient during the crisis. A Level 2 patient is rated as a “moderate priority” indicating that services may be postponed for a day or two. Level 3 is a “low priority” patient, meaning the client can safely miss scheduled visits and a family member or friend is expected to provide support until the disaster is over.
Home care recipients should periodically check with their agency to insure their patient classification is current or that the level of care is updated. If a certified agency is not being used, be sure to discuss and agree on what procedures the care provider should follow in an emergency so there are no misunderstandings.
Let us all hope that this year the hurricane season will be mild and there will be no need to initiate an emergency plan. But let us not become complacent. It is better to be prepared and safe than endure another emergency like Super storm Sandy.