Disaster Planning Tips for Senior AdultsCarolyn S. Wilken, Linda B. Bobroff, and Emily Minton
An Introduction to Disaster Planning Tips for Older Adults
Disaster can strike without warning. An important part of planning for a disaster is to have a plan for what you will do if you have to leave your home. Pick a place to meet family members or a close friend in the event that you have to evacuate. Communications often are down early in a disaster, so knowing where to meet loved ones or friends ahead of time is helpful. Use the special tips below to plan and prepare for any emergency.
Disaster Planning Tips
Special Tips for Older Adults
1 gallon per person per day
Store at least 3–5 days worth. A two-week supply is ideal.
Use for drinking and sanitation.
Store extra water if you have pets.
Water from swimming pools and spas can be used only for flushing toilets.
Dehydration is a serious health problem for older adults. If possible, store more than the recommended amount.
Gallon jugs of water are heavy. Use containers that are small enough to easily handle, such as clean and sanitized two-liter plastic soda bottles, if you choose not to purchase commercial water storage containers.
Be certain that the caps are easy to remove by persons with arthritis.
Store at least a 3–5 day supply of non-perishable foods with selections from all food groups. Examples include:
Grains - breads, dry cereals, crackers, biscuits
Vegetables - canned (your favorites)
Fruits -canned (in juice) and dried
Milk - canned and boxed shelf-stable; consider small sizes
Meat and Beans - jerky, canned beans, canned tuna and chicken, shelf-stable chicken, nuts and seeds, peanut and nut butters
Consider special dietary needs, such as low-sodium, high-fiber, or other special foods.
Store small cans of food that can be eaten at one meal or snack.
Have a manual can opener that is easy to use.
First Aid Kits:
To assemble your own first aid kit, include the following:
Adhesive bandages, various sizes
Conforming roller gauze bandages
Sterile gauze pads, various sizes
Cohesive bandage roll
Germicidal hand wipes or waterless alcohol-based hand sanitizer
Medical grade non-latex gloves
Scissors (small, personal)
Assorted sizes of safety pins
CPR breathing barrier, such as a face shield
Flashlight and extra batteries
Whistle to signal for help
Buy a prepared kit and add anything different that you might need.
If using a kit you have, restock used or expired supplies.
Contacts: List of whom to notify in an emergency
All doctors names, phone numbers, addresses, and what they treat you for (e.g. cardiologist)
Phone numbers of a few in and out-of-town relatives or close friends
Keep all of these lists in a waterproof plastic bag or container.
Social security card
Bank account and credit card information
Keep all documents in waterproof plastic bags or containers.
Battery-powered radio and/or television
Cell phone and chargers for the house and car
Extra batteries for each electronic device
Battery-powered wheel chair
Learn how to connect and start backup power supply for wheel chair or other necessary medical equipment.
Have a manual wheelchair for backup.
Board games, puzzles, playing cards
Paper and pens for letters and notes; envelopes and stamps
Sewing, crocheting, knitting supplies
Lists of prescription medications and dosage
Doctors' and pharmacy phone numbers and addresses
Check expiration dates and replace as needed.
Extra hearing aid batteries
Medical alert tag or bracelet
Wheel chair batteries
List of serial numbers and styles of medical devices (i.e. pacemakers)
Photocopies of all prescription drugs with dosage, directions, interactions, refill dates
Consult with your doctor about which non-prescription drugs and supplements are safe for you.
Minimum 2-week supply of all essential medications
People with special needs
Persons with diabetes
Keep travel packs of insulin in the refrigerator.
Testing supplies (enough for at least 2 weeks)
Extra batteries for your meter
Lancets and Lancing device
Quick-acting source of glucose
Extra glucagon emergency kit
Medical waste container for used needles
Keep insulin as cool as possible; if on ice, be careful not to freeze.
If necessary, insulin may be stored at room temperature (59°F–86°F) for 28 days.
Do not use insulin that clumps or sticks to the side of the bottle.
Persons with Alzheimer's
Register with local police and fire departments.
ID bracelet or necklace indicating special or peculiar behaviors (e.g., memory loss)
Written instructions for reaching family members, friends, and physicians.
Emergency transportation plan
Supplies of daily care items - bed pads, adult diapers, linens (enough for at least 2 weeks)
Persons with Incontinence
Emotional support/ Stress reduction
Keep a journal about your experience.
Form an informal 'support group' to share concerns and information.
Write letters to your grandchildren or other family and friends.
Extra food in plastic containers
ID tags (2 sets, one on the animal and one extra) with name and your contact information
Proof of ownership (e.g., registration papers and pictures)
Medications and pet first aid supplies
Medical and vaccination records
Veterinarian's phone number and address
Have backpacks handy to put supplies, clothing, and bedding in if you must evacuate or move to a shelter.
Plan in advance for someone to care for your pet if pets not welcome at shelter.
Attention County Extension Faculty:
This section deals with disaster planning topics and lists special tips for seniors. Included topics are planning for medical needs: what to have on hand or to pack; planning for people with special needs: those with Alzheimer's, Diabetes; the Bed-Bound, and the oxygen-supply dependent. Also included are topics and techniques on planning for: time passers, emotional support/stress reduction. and evacuation or moving to a shelter. Click here to print or view the entire publication.
There are 13 sections in this FYCS series, each focused specific preparedness issues important to Florida families.
• Preparing a Family Communications Plan for Terrorist Attacks (FY623/FCS9201) Keywords: contact, meeting, plan
• Community Contacts: Being Prepared for a Disaster (FY612/FCS9190) Keywords: national resources, Florida resources
• Community Contacts: Responding to a Disaster (FY611/FCS9189) Keywords: agency, assistance, FEMA
• Preparing to Evacuate your Home in Case of an Emergency (FY616/FCS9194) Keywords: emergency checklist, shelters, children in school., evacuating pets and animals
• TV Viewing by Children During Times of Conflict (FY613/FCS9191) Keywords: fact and fantasy, listening to your child, being a role model
• Terror/Emergency Preparedness (FY614/FCS9192) Keywords: important papers, medicines, special foods
• Avoid Fraud During Emergencies (FY615/FCS9193) Keywords: fraud, scams, overpriced cleanup and rebuilding
• Preparation for Disasters: Your Food and Drinking Water Supply (FY617/FCS9195) Keywords: preparing drinking water, purifying water, types of food
• Managing the Stress of War and Terrorism: Guidelines for Families (FY622/FCS9200) Keywords: signs of stress, manage stress, overload, substance abuse.
• International Travel in Unsettled Times (FY618/FCS9196) Keywords: travel alert, World Factbook, contacts, passport, CDC, Medevac insurance
• Disaster Planning: Important Papers and Documents (FY619/FCS9197) Keywords: papers and documents, checklist, on-the-go records.
• Disaster Planning: Tips for Senior Adults (FY620/FCS9198) Keywords: non-perishable food, first aid kit, non-prescription drugs, special tips fo senior adults
• Facing Terrorism Alone (FY621/FCS9199) Keywords: what if, do one thing at a time, keep in touch, know your neighbors
References & Resources
Psychosocial Issues for Older Adults in Disasters. DHHS Publication No. ESDRB SMA 99-3323. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, Centers for Mental Health Services.
Tips for Seniors and People with Disabilities - Disaster Preparedness for Seniors by Seniors. Available at your local chapter of the American Red Cross, or online at http://www2.redcross.org/services/disaster/beprepared/seniors.html.
Disaster Supply Kits. Available at your local chapter of the American Red Cross, or online athttp://www2.redcross.org/services/disaster/0,1082,0_3_,00.html.
Diabetes Disaster Preparedness. Division of Healthy and Family Services, State of New Jersey. Available online athttp://www.nj.gov/health/fhs/documents/diabetes_disaster_guidelines.pdf.
Disaster Preparedness Guide for Elders. Florida Department of Elder Affairs. Available online athttp://elderaffairs.state.fl.us/english/disaster.php.
Family Disaster Plan. Red Cross. Talking About Disaster: Guide for Standard Messages. Available online athttp://www.redcross.org/images/pdfs/code/family_disaster_plan.pdf.
This document is FCS9198, one of a series of the Department of Family, Youth and Community Sciences, Florida Cooperative Extension Service, IFAS, University of Florida. First published May 2003. Reviewed by the publishing department October 2009. Revised February 2011 by Linda B. Bobroff, professor, and Emily Minton, ENAFS program coordinator, both of the Department of Family, Youth and Community Sciences at University of Florida. Visit the EDIS website at http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/.
Carolyn S. Wilken, Ph.D., associate professor emeritus; Linda B. Bobroff, PhD, RD, LD/N, professor; Emily Minton, BS, ENAFS program coordinator; Department of Family, Youth and Community Sciences; Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences; University of Florida; Gainesville, FL 32611.
The Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (IFAS) is an Equal Opportunity Institution authorized to provide research, educational information and other services only to individuals and institutions that function with non-discrimination with respect to race, creed, color, religion, age, disability, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, national origin, political opinions or affiliations. For more information on obtaining other extension publications, contact your county Cooperative Extension service.
U.S. Department of Agriculture, Cooperative Extension Service, University of Florida, IFAS, Florida A. & M. University Cooperative Extension Program, and Boards of County Commissioners Cooperating. Millie Ferrer-Chancy, Interim Dean.