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I just got an e-mail from one of the MFSP readers asking me to write an article about preparedness for seniors. Thank you for the idea, it’s great that you thought about it. I’ve been meaning to write on this subject for a while now and I was gathering all sorts of information and asking my neighbors around for personal experiences…but now that it’s been requested, I’m going to go right ahead and write this article.
First thing you need to take into consideration is your vulnerabilities. As you know already, the more you age, the more vulnerable you are when it comes to disasters and other emergency situations. Many elders have troubles walking, handling objects (especially if they’re large, such as a big bug-out bag) or even breathing (which gets worse under stress). They may also suffer from hearing problems or chronic health conditions (most likely heart conditions).
So here’s the first thing you need to do: list all the health problems you have (or may develop under stress) and make sure you have treatments for every one of them!
This is crucial, because even a minor health problem can sabotage your survival, so this is the first thing you need to handle.
Next on the list: the survival kit. I’ve written all about how to make the perfect survival kit before (plus the hundreds of online articles you’ve probably already read on this subject), so I won’t start writing long lists of items again. But here’s one piece of advice I want to give you: ALWAYS have 3 kits completely equipped in very accessible places: 2 in your home and 1 in your car. Place them where it’s easy for you to reach them.
Keep separate meds kits inside the bigger ones. This way, if you get sick, you know exactly where to find your medication. And if you have any light medical equipment you need, such as a blood sugar monitor, take it with you, but only if it doesn’t require too much effort and attention from your part.
Very important: only put vital items in your survival kits! You want to keep it as light as possible. In fact, it’s best if you can get those thermo- and water-resistant bags you can carry around on wheels.
Also, do not forget about keep vital records, such as: Drivers’ Licenses, Social Security cards, Medicare and Medicaid cards together with Home Health Care folders, doctors’ names and contact information (suite101.com)… and basically any important papers regarding yourself, your family or your home. Add copies of your prescriptions and medical records, too, and keep them all in a waterproof tote.
Oh, and money. Always have some money on you and in your survival kits. Any amount will do, but make sure you don’t leave home without it. You may never know when you need it.
Ok, now let’s talk a bit about communication. You will need to make a communication plan with your family and/or your community.
First of all, you need to be familiar with your community’s response and evacuation plans
(e.g., hurricane, nuclear emergency, severe weather). If you don’t own a car or if you can’t drive one, then check out your community’s plans for evacuating people without private transportation.
If your family lives far away or for any other reasons that they might not get in touch with you in case of disaster, a community plan is crucial. Talk to your neighbors or your friends, explain them how your vulnerabilities may prevent you from escaping a disaster and ask for their help. It should be someone you trust, so you know for sure you’ll stick together, no matter what.
Here’s what you should talk about (and write everything down!):
– the phone numbers you should call in case of disaster
– the addresses where you can reach each other
– the place of meeting in case you need to bug out
– the route you should take if you need to bug out
– whose house you should bug in into, according to specific disasters (if your house is on elevated ground, that’s the place to meet in case of a flood. If it’s prone to catching fire, you need to go to someone else’s place in case of a wildfire etc)
But sometimes, none of our plans works out. Something may go wrong and you find yourself in the impossibility to contact your family and friends. In such cases, you should go to a shelter, especially if:
• Your area is without electrical power.
• Flood water is rising.
• Your home has been severely damaged.
• Police or other local officials tell you to evacuate. (redcrosstbc.org)
You can go to a Red Cross shelter or to FEMA. They’ll make sure you’re safe and sound, they’ll give you food and water, proper clothing and meds. Also, they’ll contact your family or a friend, to let them know where you are. So you’ll be in good hands all throughout the disaster.
But what about the aftermath?
The Red Cross advises seniors to follow these rules immediately after a disaster:
• If the emergency occurs while you are at home, check for damage using a flashlight. DO NOT light matches or candles or turn on electrical switches. Check for fires, chemical spills and gas leaks.
• Shut off any damaged utilities.
• Check on your neighbors, especially those who are elderly or have disabilities.
• Call your out-of-town contacts and let them know you are okay.
• Stay away from downed power lines.
• Do not drive through flooded roads.
• Monitor local broadcasts for information about where you can get disaster relief assistance.
Also, keep your eyes open for home repair fraud. Always research the contractors, write down their names and any other data you can get about them and if anything sounds suspicious, at any point… don’t be afraid to start searching for new ones. It’s better to do a little extra detective work and get some trustworthy men rebuilding your home.
Now, I really want to end this article with this: the most important asset you’ve got in a disaster is your mind.
If you have the right mindset, you can survive any calamity in the world, no matter how old you are. Just remember that you’ve survived so many disasters that life has thrown in your path all these years… Nothing can stop you now. You’ve grown too strong to let a disaster break you.
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