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Survey Indicates More Older Adults Need Disaster Readiness Plans

Emergency Preparedness Checklist
Oleksii Sergieiev - stock.adobe.
Emergency Preparedness Checklist

Most older adults are not as prepared as they should be to respond quickly in the event of natural disasters, which can strike with little notice.

New survey results are prompting reminders for Wisconsin seniors to take action. The findings were issued by AARP and the University of Chicago.

Fewer than one in three adults age 50 and older have created an emergency plan for wildfires, flooding, tornadoes, summer heat domes or winter "bomb cyclones."

Tom Kamber, executive director of Older Adults Technology Services for AARP, said the first step is to ensure having access to vital information.

"Getting signed up for alerts, so that you're given accurate information in time," Kamber urged. "As we all saw with the recent fires in Hawaii, just a few minutes was the difference in life and death for people to be able to evacuate or respond to a crisis."

Kamber recommended having a phone charger for your car, making sure emergency contacts are listed in your smartphone, and creating copies of important documents you can access online. AARP offers a template for creating an emergency plan and links to resources at AARP.org/disasterprep. And Wisconsin Emergency Management has a list of preparedness tips for seniors on its website.

People in assisted living facilities and their family members should talk with administrators about their emergency and evacuation plans. Kamber pointed out it is critical to discuss your needs with a trusted support network before a disaster occurs.

"But it also sets up questions around, for example, who is going to be your in-case-of-emergency contact in your phone?" Kamber noted. "If you do have to relocate in an emergency, is there somebody who you've already identified, where you can go and stay?"

It is also important to have three days' supply of food and water, and three weeks' supply of prescription medicines, on hand and ready to go. Older adults are frequently more socially isolated, so Kamber emphasized it is especially important for neighbors to look out for each other during a crisis.

"For many of us as we age, we've got special physical needs," Kamber added. "We have medications, as well as mobility issues that limit us from being able to get away from our house without assistance."

Mike Moen is a radio news reporter with nearly two decades of experience in the field. He has covered much of the upper Midwest, including Minnesota, Illinois, Wisconsin and the Dakotas. Many of his stories have aired nationally, including several public radio programs.
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