Emergency preparedness for older adults

Emergency preparedness for older adults
Posted on 09/01/2023
older woman and man holding an umbrella

A disaster or emergency that can directly affect your daily life can happen at any time, sometimes without warning. As you age, dealing with an emergency can become more complicated. Thankfully, there are things you can do to be prepared, respond safely and help speed your recovery. 

September is National Preparedness Month, and it’s a good time to think through your strategies for handling a crisis. These tips can help you know what to do before, during and after a disaster or emergency. While some are geared toward older adults, most are useful to anyone.


How to prepare before a disaster occurs

Get informed 

  • Identify likely disasters that could happen in your community.
  • Learn about emergency response plans, including local resources for emergency alerts, evacuation and shelters. If you are part of an older adult community, such as an independent living or long-term care facility, review their emergency action plans.
  • Sign up to receive alerts during an emergency at NotifyJoCo.org.
  • Get trained in first aid, CPR and specific actions that can save your life. 

Build your support network

  • Identify potential helpers like family, friends, neighbors, caregivers and care providers. Build your network of people who may be able to assist you, or whom you can assist.
  • Meet with your helpers to assess your needs and plan together. 
  • Plan how you will communicate with helpers. 

Assess your needs

  • Understand how your medical, physical and cognitive needs may affect your ability to respond to a disaster or emergency. Find more emergency kit considerations by ability at Ready.gov/Disability.
  • Think about how you would respond. Consider needs you may have if the power went out, you had to stay home for two weeks or more, or if you had to evacuate your home or community.
  • Talk about the help you may need and who could assist you.

Gather your supplies

  • Make sure you have an emergency kit ready and easily accessible. The printable checklist below covers basic supplies and additional items you should consider adding to your kit.

Download checklist

Practical steps to take now to be prepared for a disaster

Review, practice and refresh your plan, supplies and important documents (now and every six months). 

Develop your plan

  • Plan to stay or go: Be prepared to stay at home for at least two weeks or evacuate.
  • Help to evacuate: If you need help evacuating, plan who will help you. Find out if there are local registries, and sign up.
  • Power needs: If you require power to operate medical devices or keep medicines cold, make a backup plan.
  • Fire safety: Identify two ways out of every room to escape a home fire and plan for the help you may need.
  • Property or renter’s insurance: Make sure you have a policy that meets your property and disaster coverage needs.

Create a communication plan 

  • Make an emergency contact list and plan how you will reach your support group and emergency contacts when communications may be disrupted.
  • Make an emergency contact card for each family member. Print off a template. Each card should list their phone number, home address, and healthcare provider, plus key emergency contact numbers.

How to respond during a disaster

The three most important things to do when disaster strikes:

  • Stay informed. Monitor the news and emergency alerts for updates and guidance.
  • Stay or go? Be ready to stay at home or leave right away. Know how you will decide and who will help.
  • Ask for help. Tell people what you need.

How to recover after a disaster

Follow these steps to help your life return to normal: 

  • Return home safely. Wait until authorities say it’s safe to return. 
  • Work with trusted sources. The American Red Cross, FEMA, your local government and your support network are good sources for information or help. Beware of scams or fraudulent activity.
  • Manage property damage. Document any property damage for insurance, and work with others to remove debris and clean up safely. 

Published Sept. 1, 2023