WINDSOR, Conn. -- Some consider Tropical Storm Irene and the recent severe storm of Oct. 29-30 to have been among Connecticut’s worst weather events in 50 years. Although we should all be prepared for the next disaster, senior citizens and their friends and relatives should be especially aware of emergency preparedness best practices. The Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection (DESPP) and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) encourage Connecticut residents to make sure their senior relatives, neighbors, and friends are prepared for emergencies.
Some of the concerns seniors can face during disasters include:
Visual impairments - Seniors with visual impairments may be reluctant to leave familiar surroundings when the request for evacuation comes from a stranger. A guide dog could become confused or disoriented in a disaster. People who are blind or partially sighted may have to depend on others to lead them, as well as their dog, to safety during a disaster.
Hearing impairments - Those with impaired hearing may need to make special arrangements to receive warnings.
Mobility impairments - Individuals with challenges moving may need special assistance to get to a shelter. Persons using mobility devices, such as wheelchairs or scooters, should be sure their caretakers know how to operate required, equipment including automobile chair lifts.
Special dietary needs - Seniors with special diet requirements should take precautions to have an adequate emergency food supply.
Medical conditions - Seniors with medical conditions such as diabetes should know the location and availability of more than one facility if dependent on a dialysis machine or other life-sustaining equipment or treatment.
Cognitive challenges - Some seniors may need help responding to emergencies and getting to a shelter. When severe weather is anticipated, individuals with dementia and other cognitive challenges can experience heightened confusion. In preparation for disasters, seniors with dementia should be registered in the Alzheimer’s Association Safe Return Program. Visit: Alzheimer’s Association Safe Return Program.
Additionally, seniors should:
- Make provisions for medications that require refrigeration;
- Maintain a list of the type and model numbers of required medical devices;
- Wear medical alert tags or bracelets to identify challenges;
- Create a network of neighbors, relatives, friends, and co-workers who can help in an emergency;
- Maintain a contact list of individuals who can be relied upon to help during an emergency;
- Ask residential building management to mark accessible exits clearly and to help make arrangements for safe departure from the building in an emergency; and
- Keep specialized items ready, including extra wheelchair batteries, oxygen, catheters, medication, prescriptions and food for service animals.
Visit www.fema.gov/pdf/library/pfd_all.pdf for disaster preparedness information for individuals with disabilities and other special needs.
Officials encourage people to check in on their senior neighbors. Ask senior relatives if emergency preparedness concerns have been addressed. Check with local community leaders to find out if they know of someone who could use assistance preparing for or responding to the next disaster.
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