Ready for All
Of course, being ready for disasters is important every month. National Preparedness Month is important because it gives us an entire month to focus Pennsylvanians on being prepared. The National
Preparedness Month theme this year is, "Take Control in 1, 2, 3."
In the past summer alone, we've seen news reports from all over the US about wildfires, flooding, and heat waves, to name a few disasters. And we've had a number of major floods and events affecting thousands of people in Pennsylvania just in the last two months. When we hear about disasters and emergencies that happened "somewhere else," we tend to think that they affect other people and not us. But what if it did happen in your community? All of us, and those we love, can be affected by a disaster.
Did you know that there are 3.5 million people in Pennsylvania who are age 65 or over? And our fastest growing population in Pennsylvania is those who are age 85 or over.
We also know that about only 26% of Pennsylvanians aged 65 and older have a plan in place for when disaster strikes. This sobering statistic tells us that we all have friends, family, and neighbors who have no plan for how to act when a disaster strikes, don't know how to respond after disaster strikes, and may not know how to communicate if they need help.
Older Pennsylvanians have some of the same needs as everyone else during a disaster. However, older adults may also have additional challenges to consider, including medical equipment, accessibility and transportation issues, and access to prescription medications.
Approximately half of those over age 65 have two or more chronic health problems, such as heart disease, diabetes, and Alzheimer's disease. These conditions increase a person's vulnerability during periods of time without food, water, shelter, and adequate rest. According to the 2010 U.S. Census, of the older adults who were living outside nursing homes or hospitals, nearly one-third (11.3 million) lived alone. This reality makes having a support network particularly important.
Take Control in 1, 2, 3
If everything were easy as 1, 2, 3, we'd all be experts. However, you "are" the expert in knowing what you or your loved ones need. This year's theme, "Take Control in 1, 2, 3" empowers everyone to decide and plan for what you'll need during an emergency, especially older adults.
You can take control and start these three steps:
- Assess your needs. If you have medications that need refrigeration, rely on mobility or assistive devices such as a cane or wheelchair, or have a pet, you'll need to understand how this affects what you'll need to stay safe in a disaster or emergency.
- Make a plan. Once you assess your needs, you can make a plan for how your needs are met. This can include building a kit that includes extra medication, writing down names and numbers of people to contact in an emergency, having a way to store medications in an emergency and planning for your pets or service animals. If you or you care for someone who is an older adult, the planning process and plan are the key to knowing how to be safe when an emergency occurs.
- Engage your support network. Reaching out to family, friends and neighbors can help you build a support network that can support you before, during and after a disaster or emergency. Share each aspect of your emergency plan with everyone in your group, including a friend or relative in another area who MIGHT not be impacted by the same emergency AND can help if necessary. 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 personal support network has an extra key to your home and knows where you keep your emergency supplies. Practice your plan with those who have agreed to be part of your personal support network.
The support network is key. And a reliable and trustworthy partner in your network could be a senior center in your community. Among the supports and services provided for older Pennsylvanians, the nearly 500 Senior Community Centers across the Commonwealth offer nutritious meals, social activities, creative arts, exercise, volunteer opportunities, community services and other special events.
Resources to Get Started
Here are three resources to help you Take Control in 1, 2,3:
- Assess your needs. Know what disasters could affect your area, which could call for an evacuation, when to shelter in place, and plan what you need to do in both cases. You can also visit the PA Emergency Management Agency's Preparedness website at Ready.PA.Gov.
- Make a plan. Visit the PA Emergency Management Agency's Preparedness website at Ready.PA.Gov for a planning resource to get started: preparedness tool for older adults.
- Engage your support network. Call your local Area Agency on Aging (AAA), which is poised to participate in every level of emergency preparedness planning and meet the needs of the communities they serve in times of crisis. They will also be able to tell you about senior centers near you. Find your local AAA at www.aging.pa.gov/AAA.