Emergency planning for seniors and their caregivers

Limited mobility and medical conditions can make seniors particularly vulnerable during natural disasters.Just consider some of the stories that emerged after November’s Hurricane Sandy and how seniors were dealt an especially hard blow.Many were trapped without power and water for days in high-rise buildings.

Some took daring steps to escape rising water. Others drowned in their homes. So planning for emergencies, whether they’re hurricanes in Florida, blizzards in Newfoundland, or earthquakes and forest fires in California, is critical for seniors and their caretakers.

Take some time to address disaster planning.

Disaster kits

Put together an emergency kit that allows your family member to shelter in place for several days. Include water (enough for three to six days per person, which equals at least one gallon per person per day), flashlights, batteries, and non-perishable food.Check the kit at least twiceper year to be sure batteries and food are still fresh. Also, have a plan for medicine and be sure there’s a back-up power strategy if loved ones rely on electricity to power special health equipment.


Understand the local resources that are available to seniors in advance of disasters. Have phone numbers for the state, county and local services available before a crisis. The U.S. Red Cross (see “additional resources”), for instance, has a “locate a shelter” section on its website to help you and loved ones find a place to stay.

Point people

Develop relationships with your loved one’s neighbors and friends, particularly if you live far away, and keep their contact information current. They could help evacuate your relatives, provide shelter for them, or keep an eye on them during an emergency. They can also give you some updates and peace, if you can’t be there to help.

Staying informed

Be certain that your loved ones have access to the most current emergency information. For instance, post key phone numbers in a visible spot and be certain a working, battery-operated radio is accessible.

Pet plans

Many people, young and old, end up in treacherous situations because they don’t want to leave their pets alone and decide not to evacuate in an emergency. So also plan for pet care. Identify shelters that accept pets, hotels where pets are welcome, or friends or family where loved ones can go with their animal companions. In addition, have a bag with pet food and medicine and other necessities, such as cages, leashes, and so forth, ready to go.

Safety at home

Identify escape routes and create a safe place within the house or apartment where loved ones can go during a tornado or severe storm. Be sure the space is comfortable and equipped with necessities (chair, blankets, and water, for example) and that the space is accessible. For instance, a crawl space isn’t a realistic safety spot for someone who isn’t agile.

Additional resources

Visit the Red Crossweb site for checklists and information to help you develop a personalized plan:

To connect with Dianne Allen, Senior Real Estate Specialist (SRES) with Surterre Properties,call (949) 280-6200 or e-mail dallen@surterreproperties.com.

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