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Get a Kit, Make a Plan, Stay Informed: How Older Americans Can Prepare for a Major Emergency

By Dr. Don Rose, Writer, Life Alert
Based on a Homeland Security Article


No one likes to think about it, but a major emergency can wreak havoc on our lives if we are not prepared. Headlines constantly remind us that disasters can strike at any time – hurricanes in eastern states, tornadoes in the Midwest, earthquakes in California. Each person's needs and abilities are unique, but every individual can take important steps to prepare for all kinds of emergencies and put plans in place. By evaluating your own personal needs and making an emergency plan, you can be better prepared for any emergency situation. Here are some steps you should take today:

  • Consider how a disaster might affect your individual needs.
  • Plan to make it on your own, at least for a period of time. It's possible that you will not have access to a medical facility or even a drugstore.
  • Identify the types of resources you use on a daily basis and what you might do if they are limited or not available.
  • Get an emergency supply kit. (Perhaps more than one, if you have a family.)
  • If you must evacuate, take your pets with you, if possible. However, if you are going to a public shelter, it is important to understand that animals may not be allowed inside.
  • Plan in advance for shelter alternatives that will work for both you and your pets; consider loved ones or friends outside of your immediate area who would be willing to host you and your pets during a major emergency.

Create a Support Network

  • If you anticipate needing assistance during a disaster, talk to family, friends and others who will be part of your personal support network.
  • Write down and share each aspect of your emergency plan with everyone in your support network.
  • Make sure everyone knows how you plan to evacuate your home or workplace and where you will go in case of a disaster.
  • Make sure that someone in your local network has an extra key to your home and knows where you keep your emergency supplies.
  • Teach those who will help you how to use any lifesaving equipment, administer medicine in case of an emergency.
  • Practice your plan with those who have agreed to be part of your network.

Additional Supplies and Documents

Medications and Medical Supplies
If you take medicine or use a medical treatment on a daily basis, be sure you have what you need to make it on your own for at least a week, maybe longer. Other steps to take:

  • Make a list of prescription medicines including dosage, treatment and allergy information.
  • Talk to your pharmacist or doctor about what else you need to prepare.
  • If you undergo routine treatments administered by a clinic or hospital or if you receive regular services such as home health care, treatment or transportation, talk to your service provider about their emergency plans. Work with them to identify backup service providers and incorporate them into your personal support network.
  • Consider other personal needs such as eyeglasses, hearing aids and hearing aid batteries, wheelchair batteries, and oxygen.

Emergency Documents
Include copies of important documents in your emergency supply kits, such as family records, medical records, wills, deeds, social security number, charge and bank accounts information and tax records. Other steps to take:

  • Have copies of your medical insurance and Medicare cards readily available.
  • Keep a list of the style and serial number of medical devices or other life-sustaining devices. Include operating information and instructions.
  • Make sure that a friend or family member has copies of these documents.
  • Include the names and contact information of your support network, as well as your medical providers.
  • If you have a communication disability, make sure your emergency information notes the best way to communicate with you.
  • Keep these documents in a waterproof container for quick and easy access.

More Information

For more information on special needs, see Disaster Preparedness For People With Disabilities from FEMA, and Disaster Preparedness for Seniors by Seniors from the Red Cross.
Remember that a disaster can disrupt mail service for days or even weeks. Consider automating certain tasks you must do periodically; for example, look into Direct Deposit. Some useful information can be obtained by calling the Go Direct toll-free helpline at (800) 333-1795 and by visiting Sponsored by the U.S. Department of the Treasury and the Federal Reserve Banks, this option will ensure that you get your social security or SSI payment on time each month.

This article dealt with major disaster emergencies that affect a wide area, but there are other types of emergencies -- localized to you and your home -- that are just as important to be protected against (for example, heart attacks, stroke, fire, carbon monoxide gas leaks, falls, etc.). For such home emergencies, Life Alert can be a lifesaver. One push of the Life Alert help button sends assistance 24/7 in the event of medical emergencies, fire or smoke emergencies, home invasion, and disasters that disable your cell phone service or cause other problems with communication. For more information about Life Alert’s vital service, please visit

The article on which the above article is based is from the US government. Hence, the information in that government article is in the public domain and, to the best of our knowledge, reliable and accurate. However, while Life Alert always strives to provide true, precise and consistent information, we cannot guarantee 100 percent accuracy. Readers are encouraged to review the original article, and use any resource links provided to gather more information before drawing conclusions and making decisions.

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