Preparing for a hurricane is essential for all ages, but for older adults, especially those with chronic health conditions or disabilities, it’s vital in helping to prevent tragedies. In 2005, when Hurricane Katrina raged through the Gulf Coast, more than 70% of those who died were over the age of 60. And 47% of those deaths were caused by acute and chronic diseases.
When most think of hurricane preparation, they think of securing their home. However, you need to tend to more than just your home when planning for a tropical storm or worse. You need to make yourself and your health a priority when creating a hurricane disaster plan.
How to Create a Hurricane Disaster Plan
Hurricane season in Florida runs from June 1 through November 30, with most storms occurring after August 1. As surface temperatures in the Atlantic hit their highest temperatures, hurricane season begins to peak during August and into early October.
With the Florida population rapidly increasing, most new residents have likely never experienced a hurricane. And, unfortunately, many natural disasters occur without little warning. That is why you need to prepare for when Mother Nature strikes.
As we approach the peak of the season, here are steps you should take to create your hurricane preparedness plan.
1. Establish a Support Network
Storms with heavy rain and high wind gusts can cause mass power outages across regions due to knocked-down power lines. This can make communication with family, friends, and neighbors difficult.
Before a storm, create a support network of individuals that are aware of your hurricane plans. By keeping your network informed, they will know where to find you during and after the storm in case you need help or if there is an emergency. Have a current list of contact information and phone numbers for everyone in your network.
2. Make a Medical Plan
Depending on winds and floods and any damage caused, you may not have access to a medical clinic or pharmacy for an extended period. In the days leading up to a tropical storm or hurricane, fill all necessary prescriptions. You should have no less than a week’s worth of all your medication and vitamins. Do not wait until the last minute in case you need to contact your health insurance for refill approval.
Other non-prescription essential medications, such as aspirin, pain relievers, antacids, laxatives, and anti-diarrhea medication, should also be on hand.
If you require oxygen, check with your health care supplier about emergency plans. In addition, if you or a family member require the use of medical equipment that uses electricity, such as a CPAP or nebulizer machine, make sure you have a way to power the equipment in the case of an outage. If you do not have access to a generator, or if your equipment doesn’t have a battery backup, contact your doctor or healthcare provider to discuss other options.
You should have a copy of your medical history that includes all health conditions, allergies, prescriptions, medical procedures, physician contact info, and health insurance papers or cards easily accessible and organized. Store this information in a waterproof container. A large Ziploc bag will suffice.
3. Create a Hurricane Survival Kit
Along with having extra medications and medical supplies, you need to put together an emergency supply kit with all the necessary resources in case you have to shelter in place.
The rule of thumb is to have at least three days’ worth of supplies. These items should already be purchased and stored in a safe place before a storm approaches to prevent last-minute store shortages. Items on your list should include:
- Non-perishable food such as canned items
- Can opener
- Flashlight with extra batteries
- First aid kit
- Battery-powered radio
- Medical-related items, including an extra pair of eyeglasses and extra batteries for hearing aids
- Personal hygiene items
- Whistle to signal for help
4. Have an Evacuation Plan
Depending on where you live, you may be ordered to evacuate. Never ignore evacuation orders. Even if you’re not required, it’s still a good idea to have an evacuation plan in place so you know exactly what to do and where to go if the need does arise.
Counties are usually broken into zones. Know what zone you live in and what shelters are available in your area. If you require special needs or have service animals, contact the local shelters ahead of time to ensure they can accommodate you. Driving conditions could pose an issue, so be sure to know multiple evacuation routes to your location.
If you do evacuate, take your emergency supply kit and any important documents along with your medical history with you.
Be Aware and Stay Informed
Once you have a hurricane safety plan in place, be aware of any potential threats. Stay up to date with the national weather service so you have plenty of time to put your emergency preparedness plan into action. Listen to your local government for direction and orders. They, too, will provide you with steps to protect you and your family.
Natural disasters are stressful, especially for seniors. By already having a disaster preparedness plan in place, you can help to eliminate any additional anxiety. You should always talk to your healthcare provider if you have any concerns about your health or need home care assistance during a storm.
Contact your local VIPcare primary care physician today and put your mind at ease knowing you’re prepared for any impending storms.