Emergency Communication for the Elderly and Disabled

This month, we’re talking about emergency preparedness from the perspective of seniors and those who require in-home assistance.

Often, when a large-scale emergency or disaster strikes, finding your loved ones or getting help can be very difficult. Sometimes traditional telephones stop working, for hours or days. Sometimes even cell phones are compromised for a period of time. That’s why it’s important to make a plan for how you will make contact and get the help you need from your support team. If you are prepared with as many resources and tools as possible, your chances of communicating your needs and reaching loved ones improve.

Know Your Community

1)     Make sure you are familiar with the emergency plan and communications procedures of the area you live in. Most cities or municipalities have these plans available to the public. They are easy to find online.  For Anchorage, you can find the plan and a lot of helpful information on the municipality Emergency Management page.

2)     Subscribe to emergency alert services. Every community has an Emergency Alert Service (EAS) that will notify residents of important information in relation to disasters and threats to the area. You can often subscribe to these—and if you have a cell phone, they will send you text messages, or emails on your computer. You can also get weather alerts from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA).

3)     Make sure the places where you spend your time have an identification plan as part of their overall emergency plan so that they have your critical information and have ways to connect you with your family, caregivers and loved ones in the case of an emergency.

Register and Keep Information Up-to-Date

1)     Make sure you have a completed contact card on you at all times, that gives your information and who to contact in case of emergency, as well as the numbers of your support team.

2)     Register with your local disaster registry. Many communities have a disaster registry that helps emergency service people to find seniors and those with disabilities more easily in an emergency, to provide help.  If you aren’t registered do so now: Anchorage Municipality Disaster Registry.

3)     Identify an emergency contact person from out of state—like a friend or relative and make sure they are included in your documents and registration. Sometimes, in an emergency, it is easier to reach long-distance contacts to tell them you are okay.

Use Technology

1)     If you have a cell phone, learn how to use it well.

2)     Program your emergency contacts into your phone under “ICE”—In Case of Emergency.

3)     Consider an emergency communication system, like we talked about previously.

4)     Learn how to text on your cell phone. Often, text messages will reach their destination when phone calls won’t in an emergency.

Have a Support Team

1)     We talked about the importance of this in our last post—but we want to remind you how helpful it can be. Make sure you have people in your life who are prepared to help you and look out for you in an emergency.

2)     Many communities have a neighborhood emergency watch program. This is a good way to understand how emergencies are handled in your neighborhood and gives you a chance to know people who will help you. There is one in Anchorage.

Bonus Tip:

If you are hearing impaired, it’s especially important that you have all the tools you need to hear everything you can during an emergency. Make sure that you keep your hearing aid and other assistive devices close by.  You can put them in a bedside container that is attached to your nightstand, or Velcro them in a secure place. Some disasters, like the earthquakes we can have in Alaska could shift many items and cause you to lose these important tools.

Following these steps will help you to handle emergencies in the best way—and know that you will not be alone if a disaster strikes.

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