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Emergency Preparedness

Preparing for the Unexpected

Although preparing for an emergency can be a little frightening, knowing how to prepare for a natural disaster or large-scale emergency is very important. We cannot prevent emergencies, but there are many things we can do to prepare.

After An Emergency Occurs

During and after an emergency, it is important to stay calm. Even after an event, there may still be many dangers. Stay tuned to your local emergency station and follow the advice of trained professionals. Unless told to evacuate, avoid roads to allow emergency vehicles access. What you do next can save your life and the lives of others.

  • Remain calm and assist the person in your care who may be vulnerable if exposed to extreme heat or cold.

  • Locate a flashlight with batteries to use until power comes back on. Do not use candles, which can cause a fire.

  • Turn off major electrical and gas appliances that were on when the power went off. This will help to prevent power surges when electricity is restored.

  • Keep the refrigerator and freezer doors closed as much as possible to keep in cold.

  • Do not use the kitchen stove to heat the home—this can cause a fire or fatal gas leak.

  • Use extreme caution when driving. If traffic signals are out, treat each signal as a stop sign. Come to a complete stop at every intersection and look before you proceed.

  • Do not call 911 to ask about a power outage. Use a battery-operated radio to listen to news.

A Personal Support Network

The best way to prepare is to establish a personal support network, made up of individuals who will check on the person in your care in an emergency and give assistance if needed.

Emergency Supplies Kit

  • List of prescription medications, dosage, and allergies. Also include at least a one week supply of medications.

  • Extra eyeglasses and hearing-aid batteries, wheelchair batteries or other special equipment.

  • A list of the style and serial numbers of medical devices such as pacemakers.

  • Copies of medical insurance and Medicare cards.

  • List of doctors and emergency contacts.

  • Flashlight, battery-operated radio, fresh batteries, extra blankets, a manual can opener, eating utensils and a whistle.

  • Extra clothing and incontinence supplies.

  • Water—One gallon of water per person per day, for drinking and sanitation. If you live in a warm weather climate more water may be necessary.

  • Store water tightly in clean plastic containers such as soft drink bottles. Keep at least a three-day supply of water per person.

  • Food—Store at least a three-day supply of non-perishable food. Select foods that require no refrigeration, preparation or cooking and little or no water such as ready-to-eat canned meats, fruits and vegetables and foods for special diets.

  • Other foods to pack: Protein or fruit bars, Whole-grain cereals, Peanut butter, Dried fruits, Nuts, Salt-free crackers, Canned juices, Non-perishable pasteurized milk

Elderly or People With Disabilities

An elderly person or a person with disabilities may face some special challenges if an emergency strikes. Caregivers can help them learn about the challenges that they may face and help them prepare ahead of time. Then they will be better able to cope with the disaster and recover from it more quickly.

Help the person in your care to:

  • Plan how to evacuate or signal for help.

  • Plan emergency procedures.

  • Tell others where she keeps her emergency supplies kit.

  • Teach others how to operate necessary equipment.

  • Label equipment like wheelchairs, canes, or walkers.

Sources: National Organization on Disability at; Healthlogy; is from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security; FEMA;; American Red Cross; and The Comfort of Home: An Illustrated Step-by-Step Guide for Caregivers.

Taking Care of Yourself

Berries for Better Memory

Fresh berries are in season and studies show a basket of berries may be a good way to boost your memory. Researchers discovered that the extracts of certain berries helped combat oxidative stress and DNA damage, both of which play roles in the development of Alzheimer's disease. Boysenberries, blackberries, black currants and blueberries that have deep red or purple color are rich in potent disease-fighting antioxidants. So no matter what the season, eat a colorful assortment of fresh or frozen fruits and vegetables to get a healthy mix of disease-fighting compounds every day.

Source: Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture 2006 January

Heat Stroke

Especially during an emergency be, aware that an older person is at greater risk of heat exhaustion because the aging body is less able to cool itself. Remember as a person ages, he or she feels less thirsty, so a special effort should be made to provide fluids. Watch for these signs:

  • Headache

  • Nausea

  • High temperature

  • Rapid breathing and pulse

  • Confused behavior

  • Hot, dry flushed skin.

Consult the doctor immediately to get emergency help.


There are some things you learn best in calm, and some in a storm. ~Willa Cather

Live Life Laughing!

Doctor, I broke my finger in two places.

Well, stay out of those two places.

No disaster is more frequent or deadly than fire for a person with a mobility disability. Contact the local fire department for help in evacuation planning, but make sure the advice fits the needs of the person in your care. Besides the usual advice about home fire safety, such as buying and maintaining smoke alarms and fire extinguishers, help the person in your care follow these tips:

  • Buy clothing, linens, and blankets made of fire-resistant material.

  • Arrange furniture so it does not obstruct a quick exit.

  • Attach a small ready-to-go bag to wheelchair or walker.

  • Contact support network members to help if he or she must evacuate a building by stairway.

  • Help memorize a few critical phrases to quickly explain her situation to first responders or write it down.

  • Practice the emergency plan regularly.

Sources: National Organization on Disability at; Healthlogy; is from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security; FEMA;; American Red Cross; and The Comfort of Home: An Illustrated Step-by-Step Guide for Caregivers.

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