The wildfires on Maui are a stark reminder that a disaster can happen at any time and that thinking about and planning for a fire, hurricane, tsunami or other disaster is an imperative, especially for kupuna and caregivers of kupuna.
Preparation for a disaster involves preparing and practicing a disaster plan and stocking and maintaining a disaster supply kit. The links in this article will help you create a disaster plan and go bag of essential supplies in case you need to evacuate.
Fires are especially dangerous for kupuna. Older Americans are 2.5 times more likely to die in a fire than the general population. The Hawaii Wildfire Management Association has prepared a Ready, Set, Go! guide to help keep you and your family safe from wildfires. The guide contains tips on hardening your home against fire danger and information on recognizing fire danger and preparing an escape plan. The Federal Emergency Management Agency and the U.S. Fire Administration also have tips for kupuna and organizations that help kupuna on how to reduce your risk of fire death. Those tips include having a working smoke detector and having and practicing an escape plan for fires. The American Red Cross has its Sound the Alarm program to provide smoke detectors at no cost to kupuna and others who need them. The website also has tips on planning an escape route from a fire.
Caregivers and kupuna should have an emergency plan for any natural disaster, including power outages and earthquakes in addition to fires, hurricanes and tsunami. One of the keys to a successful plan involves creating a support network of family, neighbors and friends. Family caregivers may not be able to reach a loved one in an emergency, especially during an evacuation. Caregivers of people with dementia will also need more than one person to watch over a loved one to help keep them calm and to make sure they don’t wander away.
You should also keep an emergency grab bag with medications, important papers like passports and power of attorney, medical instructions, and phone numbers and contact information, phone charger or batteries, ect. A larger bag should contain water and food. FEMA and the Red Cross have recommendations on what your emergency kit should contain.
Hawai`i emergency management officials recommend having a 14-day supply of food and water for each person in a disaster supply kit. That’s significantly increased from what’s suggested for the mainland and previous recommendations in Hawaii of three to seven days of supplies. The concern is that harbors could become unusable in a disaster and Oahu could run out of food before the ports can be reopened.
If you need to evacuate your home, don’t assume that the nearest school will opened as an emergency shelter. Some facilities that had been designated as emergency shelters in the past are now in expanded flood or tsunami zones. See if a relative or friend’s home in a safe area can be used as a back-up shelter and it’s a good idea to line up more than one back-up shelter in case the first one is not available.
Check your home to see if it is engineered to survive a severe storm and to see if it is outside of tsunami and flood zones. If you live in a concrete building on an upper floor, you may be better off to shelter in place during a storm or tsunami.
Here are other disaster preparation tips for kupuna and caregivers.
Senior Emergency Preparedness:
National Institute on Aging Disaster Preparedness:
Emergency Preparedness Checklist for Caregivers:
Alzheimer’s Association Disaster Preparedness:
Ready.Gov Disaster Preparation page: https://www.ready.gov/
Hawaii Emergency Management Agency:
Hawaii Wildfire Management Organization Guide: https://www.hawaiiwildfire.org/fire-resource-library-blog/rsg-your-personal-wildland-fire-action-guide?fbclid=IwAR1KCEUO369ovN62Ixc0lnlaUhHz6PCUZdbxyrit9Pf2EIORzX1scvijm0g
CDC Emergency Preparedness links: https://emergency.cdc.gov/
Quiz: Are you Prepared for a Natural Disaster?: https://www.aarp.org/home-family/personal-technology/info-2023/disaster-tech-quiz.html
Essential Technology to Have During Natural Disasters: https://www.aarp.org/home-family/personal-technology/info-2022/disaster-apps-and-gadgets.html
This story is provided by AARP Hawaii. Visit the AARP Hawaii page for more news, events, and programs affecting retirement, health care, and more.
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