David Shotwell, Senior Director, Livable Communities, AARP Education and Outreach
Natural disasters can occur anywhere and anytime, sometimes without warning. If a tornado, hurricane, wildfire or severe flooding were to threaten you and your loved ones, would you be prepared?
Your chances of surviving a natural disaster are greater if you have an emergency plan and provisions in place ahead of time. You may not have enough time to prepare for an emergency when disaster strikes.
Create an Emergency Plan
Creating and being familiar with your emergency plan is essential. Key components of your plan should include:
* Know where you will seek safety. Your place of shelter may vary depending on the type of emergency. If a tornado warning has been issued in your community, plan to take shelter in a basement or--if a cellar isn't an option--in an interior room on the first floor. For a hurricane, wildfire, or flooding, be familiar with local evacuation routes. If you don't have a vehicle, know where and how you will seek safety.
* Determine if you'll need assistance. Those with disabilities or life-threatening medical conditions are especially at risk in an emergency. Some emergency management offices keep registers of persons to be located and helped during an emergency. If you will need evacuation assistance or help operating a medical device during a power loss, notify your local emergency management office. Find your local office at www.fema.gov (type State Offices and Agencies of Emergency Management in the search box).
* Don't forget your pets. If you must evacuate your home, will you also need shelter for your pets? Some public shelters may only accept service animals. Identify a back-up shelter in case your pet is unable to remain with you. Plan to bring extra food, water and any medication your pets may need.
* Know how to reach loved ones. If you're apart from family members when an emergency happens, know how you will communicate with each other. Identify a place to regroup.
* Go paperless. Mail service can be disrupted following a natural disaster. To protect yourself and ensure receipt of paychecks or federal benefit payments, arrange for direct deposit of these payments to a checking or savings account.
Assemble Your Emergency Provisions
Consider what items you'll need on a daily basis in the event that they're not available or are in limited supply. Assemble enough provisions to last for three days at a minimum. Keep one supply at home and a smaller supply you could take with you if needed. Here are some suggestions:
* Non-perishable food and non-electric can opener
* Water for drinking and sanitation (one gallon of water per person per day)
* First aid kit
* Battery-powered or hand-crank radio and extra batteries
* Flashlight and extra batteries
* Local maps
* Medical supplies and copies of prescription medications
* Charged cell phone and charger
* Water and food for your pets or service animal
* Copies of important documents in a waterproof container (e.g., your identification plus bank, health and insurance information)
Additional resources are available at www.ready.gov, www.fema.org and www.redcross.org. AARP has information on emergency preparedness at www.aarp.org/createthegood (click on "How-To Guides" then scroll down to Operation Emergency Prepare and Operation Hurricane Prepare).
David Shotwell is Senior Director of Livable Communities at AARP. He leads the Association's educational and outreach efforts related to housing options, including universal design and living in place, as well as broader mobility options, including expanding transportation choices for older Americans.