Disaster Preparedness

The Hartford Center for Mature Market Excellence® partnered with the MIT AgeLab to conduct research with people age 50+ in disaster prone areas to learn about their concerns, preparations and real-world experiences with different types of natural disasters. According to the findings, most people have not given thought to the specific tasks that need to be completed to be well-prepared.
Having a disaster preparedness plan established ahead of time can help make a stressful time a little easier. Don’t wait until a disaster is headed your way – make your disaster recovery plan in advance so that you and your family will be better prepared in an emergency.

Disaster Preparedness for Your Unique Risks

Natural disasters are not one size fits all. Know what you’re at the highest risk for and plan accordingly. Always make sure you understand the events most likely to impact your location.
Collect and store emergency supply items such as flashlights, batteries, fresh water, a portable radio, and medications. Know and record your source for severe weather information. State and local governments often maintain phone numbers or websites for official disaster updates.

Plan for Evacuation

In any disaster, it is always a possibility that you may need to evacuate your home. Make sure your disaster preparedness plan accounts for possible evacuation.
  • Locate and store your important documents and other property in a place you can access quickly. These items may include your driver’s license, Social Security card, Medicare and health insurance cards, prescriptions, cash, medical records, financial records, insurance policies, and home inventory. You should also keep copies of all important papers in a safe deposit box or in a secure location away from your primary residence.
  • Make a list of key phone numbers of friends, family, and the claim office for your home and auto insurance company. Keep this list with your important papers.
  • Know where you will go if you have to evacuate, including the location of the nearest shelter. Local fire and police departments and disaster preparedness agencies in your community may be able to help you locate shelters near you.

Set Up Your Support Network

When making your disaster recovery plan, know whose help you may need before, during, and after the event.
  • Discuss needs ahead of time so roles are defined and expectations are clear.
  • Understand what you should or should not expect from disaster relief agencies such as FEMA and the American Red Cross.
  • Know the process for reporting a claim to your insurance company.
  • Also, know who may need your help.

Evaluate the Risks and Abilities of Family Members

If anyone in your family has special needs such as health issues or physical limitations, it’s critical that your disaster plan accounts for their needs.
  • Do they take medication that will require an extra supply in an emergency?
  • Does their medicine require refrigeration?
  • Do they depend on electricity to operate medical equipment?
  • Do they need special assistance in getting in and out of safe locations, or in obtaining transportation if it is necessary to evacuate?
  • In the event of an evacuation, is a nearby shelter accessible for someone with disabilities? If not, contact your local health department to learn where the nearest special-needs shelter is in your area.

Disaster Preparedness for Your Pets

For many Americans, pets are family members too. If you have a pet, you should investigate the emergency pet shelter options in your area. In addition, you’ll want to prepare for your pet’s survival needs:
  • Determine whether pets can accompany you to a shelter or other location for safety – such as a hotel or family member’s home. If not, make alternative plans.
  • Assemble a pet disaster kit to include leash and carrier, medications, health and vaccination records, water, and other necessities for your pet’s well-being.
  • Be sure your pet’s ID tags are either on the animal or in your pet disaster kit. If you have to evacuate, be absolutely certain your pet is wearing identification.
For more information download It Could Happen to Me: Family Conversations about Disaster Planning. This guidebook outlines the ABC’s of a thorough plan and includes checklists, worksheets and resources to make developing the plan as easy as possible for older adults and their families.
If you provide care for a family member with a memory disorder, you may also be interested in The Calm Before the Storm: Family Conversations about Disaster Planning, Caregiving, Alzheimer’s Disease and Dementia. This guidebook was developed from research with family caregivers of individuals with dementia who live at home and addresses the unique needs that caregivers face in preparing for a natural disaster.
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