“The better prepared you are, the more you cut the risk to you and your family and the calmer you are when facing an emergency,” said Gina Peek, Oklahoma State University Cooperative Extension housing and consumer specialist. “But in a lot of cases, there isn’t much warning, so for older adults, prepping ahead also may buy them extra time to move to safety.”
Families with the best, most complete emergency plans address the unique needs of each person, and for older adults, that could include taking into account their strength and mobility, Peek said.
A basic emergency kit should include enough water and food for three days, weather appropriate clothing to change into, a flashlight with extra batteries, a first aid kit and a weather radio. Do not forget to include other special items that may need to go into the kit such as extra glasses, assistive devices, oxygen and hearing aids and extra batteries.
“Keep copies of important documents such as medical insurance, Medicare and Medicaid cards, wills and power of attorney in a waterproof container in the emergency kit,” Peek said.
Since any kit much over the size and weight of a simple “go bag,” could be heavy and difficult to move, families may consider preparing two kits – one for sheltering at home during emergencies and a smaller, lighter one that is easier to maneuver in case a family has to take cover somewhere outside the home.
It also is important to consider the type of container to use for the emergency kits.
“As you’re thinking about what to put an emergency kit, also consider the type of container to use to collect all the supplies,” Peek said. “For instance, people with arthritis may choose a case with wheels instead of a large plastic tote with handles.”
Emergency kits should be stored in a space that is quick and easy to access.
“Remember, in an emergency, you need to be able to put your hands on your kit quickly, so storing it on a high shelf or at the back of an already crowded closet may not be the best options,” Peek said.
Finally, when it comes to seeking safety, some older adults may not have the mobility to get underground.
“Anyone worried about making it to the basement, cellar or belowground shelter may think about picking another safe space in their home,” Peek said. “If you can’t get underground, look for another safe space on the lowest level of the house. Interior rooms such as closets or hallways work best. Avoid doors, windows and outside walls.”