According to Knight Ridder News, 15% of the New Orleans population prior to Hurricanes Katrina and Rita were older adults.
However, 74% of the hurricane victims were older adults! Older adults are at increased risk because of sensory deficits, delayed response time, chronic illness and medication use, memory disorders, mobility limitations, transfer trauma, multiple loss effect, hyper/hypothermia vulnerability, and crime victimization (Administration on Aging).
Disability experts in the evacuation shelters noted that many older adults could not hear the announcements over loud speakers, could not see the signage that directed them to assistance, had difficulty understanding because of sensory or cognitive challenges, and could not stand in line (many evacuated without adaptive equipment).
Churches can play a significant role in helping older adults in their congregations prepare for emergency situations. One’s church might also serve a role as a place of refuge or protection.
There are numerous resources to help prepare for educating your aging congregations and care givers:
Disaster Preparedness for Seniors by Seniors – A very helpful resource written by older adults for older adults. The writers, having experienced a two-week power outage following a major ice storm in New York, emphasize the need for older adults to prepare NOW for a sudden emergency. They emphasize that older adults need to identify what disasters are most likely to strike in their geographic location. Other topics include: How one may be notified of a possible emergency; making a family disaster plan; creating an emergency preparedness checklist ; assembling a family disaster supplies kit; what it means to Shelter in Place; what to do if evacuation is necessary; fire safety; and grandchildren safety. Specific information is downloadable on tornado, flood, earthquake, fire, hurricane, and winter storm preparation.
Preparing for Disaster for People with Disabilities and Other Special Needs
Just in Case: Emergency Readiness for Older Adults and Caregivers – The U.S. Administration on Aging’s National Family Caregiver Support Program and Caresource Healthcare Communications, Inc. have released this valuable consumer guide. This guide presents an easy three step guide to emergency preparedness: 1 – Essential things a person should know; 2- Emergency supplies for surviving at home and for evacuation if necessary; 3- Creating a personal plan taking into account individual medical and physical needs.
Emergency Preparedness: Taking Responsibility for Your Safety – Tips for People with Activity Limitations and Disabilities – Los Angeles County Emergency Survival Program allows downloads of the following documents:
- Coping with Disaster: A Guide for Families and Others Who Support Adults With Cognitive Disabilities
- Emergency Evacuation Preparedness: Taking Responsibility for Your Safety, A Guide for People with Disabilities and Other Activity Limitations
- Serving and Protecting All by Applying Lessons Learned – Improving Access to Disaster Services for People with Disabilities and Seniors
- Fire Risk Series for Older Adults
- Fire and Fall Prevention for our Older Adults
Ready.gov is a page that thoroughly lists steps seniors should take to properly prepare for an emergency
AARP has 5 important tips for seniors to follow to prepare for disasters