Preparing for Large-Scale Emergencies

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

We’ve already talked in general terms, about why it’s important to have an emergency plan. But, there is a difference between small emergencies and large emergencies and we’d like to focus on the large emergencies for this post. 

When we refer to large-scale emergencies, we are talking about major disasters that happen because of something in nature or increasingly, because of terrorism. It’s as important (if not more so) to be prepared for large-scale emergencies as the smaller emergencies, because there is a chance that if one occurs it will impact a large area, overload emergency services and you will need to be able to take care of yourself for days or even weeks. What happens if you lose your electricity and power? What happens if you can’t heat your home? What if you can’t gather your necessary items or get to the place you need to be?

In Alaska, the most likely large-scale emergencies are earthquakes, wildfire and extreme cold weather. But, these events can cause all sorts of things to go wrong—all of a sudden there are chemical hazards, explosions, floods, power outages, etc.

Let’s talk about how you can best prepare.

1)     Know Your Abilities.  It’s hard to not be able to do what we used to be able to do. It makes us feel vulnerable and it feels limiting.  But, it’s important to be realistic about what you are capable of right now. The best way to do this is to go through a self-assessment.  Self-assessments are really helpful not only for identifying where you might need assistance but also where you need to know more about your home and environment.  Take the time to go through a self-assessment with a loved one or caregiver by your side, who can help you to be objective.  We’ll provide a link to one a little later in this post.

2)     Know Your Community. Take the time to understand the hazards that are most likely in your community and what your community has in place for emergency and evacuation plans. This includes being familiar with warning systems, emergency teams and services. Know the safe zone for your area. Know who you can call.

3)     Establish a Support Team.  If you already get assistance from in-home caregivers, medical caregivers or loved ones, you will probably need to rely on them that much more in an emergency situation. And there may be others you will need to call on for help. Don’t limit yourself to one person. In an emergency, that one person may not be able to come to your aid. Think about people who share your area with you: neighbors, friends, co-workers. Identify people who you trust, who are calm, strong, have good communication skills etc.  Make sure you have these kinds of people willing to help you in all the places where you spend most of your time. Ask if they want to be on your support team, then take the time to “practice” and figure out how they could best help you in an emergency situation.

4)     Get A Kit. We can’t stress this enough—and we’ve already talked about this, but take the time to make an emergency kit for your home and your car. Numerous organizations provide checklists to help you create the best kit for you. If you plan ahead and have a kit, you can avoid waiting in lines for important and basic supplies, like food, water and medicine.  You will have all the essentials for staying put in your safe zone, or for evacuating, if necessary.

5)     Make a Plan. Disasters and emergencies often don’t give you much time for response. We all know that if you have a plan for anything, it will reduce your anxiety. This is especially true for emergencies. Once you have a plan, you can always review it and make adjustments. In fact, you should regularly—but it’s a lot easier to do that when you are comfortable with the plan you’ve started with. Start now!

  1. Meet with your family and support team to discuss it.
  2. Create a communications plan. (Consider an emergency communications system like VoiceCare or the Red Cross Lifeline).
  3. Plan for your pets.

This should get you along the path to preparedness, but here are a few very useful resources that will help with the details:

Municipality of Anchorage Tips for Senior and Disabled Persons

Red Cross Disaster Preparedness for Seniors by Seniors