How Older Americans Should Prepare for Fire, Hurricanes, Other Emergencies

Posted on 09/09/20

California Wildfires

AP Photo/Noah Berger

Wildfires rage in California on September 9th.

Water. Nonperishable food. A personal first-aid kit. A flashlight and battery-powered radio. You've probably heard about these and other basics for an emergency, but some other items are particularly important if you're 50 or older.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has a list of information targeted specifically for older Americans facing an emergency. Among the items the agency recommends you have on hand:

  • A three-day minimum supply of medications, along with a cooler and ice packs if your medications require refrigeration. Also, medical supplies if needed, such as syringes.
  • Contact lens solution, glasses and/or hearing aids and extra batteries for people who need them.
  • An identification band with your full name, a list of any allergies and a family-member contact number.
  • Information about your medical devices, including oxygen, walkers and wheelchairs. The information should include model numbers and the vendor of the products.
  • Documents in a waterproof bag. They should include a personal care plan; contact information for family members; a medication list including the dosage, exact name, pharmacy information and the prescribing doctor for each medication; a list of food or medical allergies; copies of photo IDs and medical insurance cards; and a durable power of attorney and/or medical power of attorney documents.
  • Cash to be used if automatic teller and credit card machines are not working.

The CDC also is recommending people include additional supplies to address the spread of the coronavirus, flu and other viruses. They include cloth face coverings for everyone 2 and older, soap, hand sanitizer and disinfecting wipes. The complete list is here


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The Department of Homeland Security's Ready.gov site offers a number of emergency resources, including a list of items that should be in a basic emergency kit. The full list is here. Among the items suggested:

  • 1 gallon of water per day per person for at least three days.
  • At least a three-day supply of nonperishable food.
  • A battery-powered or hand-crank radio, along with a NOAA weather radio that sends an automatic tone in case of an emergency alert.
  • A flashlight and extra batteries.
  • A cellphone with chargers and a backup battery.
  • A whistle to signal for help.

AARP's Create the Good program offers a do-it-yourself project to help prepare for hurricanes. The guide for individuals is here.

Editor’s Note: This story has been updated to reflect new information on wildfires.

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