Natural disasters such as the recent flooding in Louisiana, the ice storm that brought Nashville to a standstill in 2015 or seasonal tornadoes can happen any time and may cripple your neighborhood and city. Whether you are forced to evacuate or are confined to your home, having a personal disaster plan in place will help you think and communicate in advance about what you need to have on hand and who needs to be in contact during an emergency.
The American Red Cross recommends seniors create a personal support network of people who will check in on you during and after an emergency to ensure your safety and to help get assistance to you if needed. This should include neighbors, family members and friends who live relatively close in proximity to you and can coordinate a check-up. When creating your list of emergency numbers, consider listing one person who lives several hours away or in another state. Have conversations with everyone in your personal support network in advance to let them know they are on your list in case of an emergency. Identify how you will get in touch with each other. What if the telephone lines are down? Does someone in your network have a key to your home to be able to get inside? Do you have a list of emergency phone numbers, health information card and important documents easily accessible if needed during a natural disaster?
FEMA.gov has family emergency plan documents that can be printed, filled out and distributed to your family and personal support network. Be sure to keep a copy of this with your emergency kit. An emergency kit should also include enough water and nonperishable food items to sustain you for a few days. Make sure you have flashlights, batteries for flashlights, radios, hearing aids, prescriptions for seven days, whistle (to attract attention of emergency personnel if needed), battery-operated radio and copies of personal documents (insurance policies, Medicare cards, birth certificates). Or, if you have important items scanned and kept digitally, keep a back-up on a flash drive in your emergency kit. For a list of additional items to consider including in your kit, click here for the American Red Cross recommendations.
If you depend on a walker, cane or wheelchair, keep these items in a designated place in your home so that they can be easily found.
Disasters can happen anytime, and it is important to take time to create a personal disaster plan and a kit to have easily accessible if needed. Having a plan in place will allow you to feel better prepared if and when an emergency occurs.