Emergency Preparedness for Seniors and People with Disabilities

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The likelihood that you and your family will recover from an emergency tomorrow often depends on the planning and preparation done today. While each person’s abilities and needs are unique, every individual can take steps to prepare for all kinds of emergencies. By evaluating your own personal needs and making an emergency plan that fits those needs, you and your loved ones can be better prepared.

There are commonsense measures older Americans can take to start preparing for emergencies before they happen.

Create a network of neighbors, relatives, friends and co-workers to aid you in an emergency. Discuss your needs and make sure everyone knows how to operate necessary equipment. If appropriate, discuss your needs with your employer.

Seniors should keep specialized items ready, including extra wheelchair batteries, oxygen, catheters, medication, food for service animals and any other items you might need. Keep a list of the type and model numbers of the medical devices you require. Be sure to make provisions for medications that require refrigeration. Make arrangements for any assistance to get to a shelter.

If you are a senior or have a special need, you may want to add the following steps to your emergency preparations:

  • Get to know about the various types of emergencies and how to prepare for them.
  • Prepare an emergency kit and personalize it to your needs. In addition to the recommended items, consider including: 
    • Medicare and other medical insurance cards.
    • Emergency contact information – list of family, friends, relatives and health providers that should be notified if you are injured.
    • Extra supplies for medical equipment - wheelchair batteries, oxygen, eyeglasses, hearing-aid batteries.
    • A list of serial numbers and styles of medical devices. 
    • Extra supply of medication.
    • Copies of prescriptions along with the reason you use them.
  • Develop a support team. If you know you will need assistance during an emergency talk to someone you know can help you.
    • Discuss your plan with your support team. 
    • Talk to members about where you keep your emergency kit. 
    • Provide a key to your home to one of your team members. 
    • Show your support team how to operate medical devices you use.
  • Ask your doctor, pharmacist, and health service provider about what else you can do to prepare. If possible, add them as members of your support team.
  • Identify your disability by wearing medical alert tags or bracelets.

California Telephone Access Program

Sponsored by the California Public Utilities Commission, the California Telephone Access Program offers free specialized phones that make it easier to hear, easier to dial and easier to call.   For information on applying for a free specialized phone from California Telephone Access Program, please go to www.californiaphones.org or call 1-800-806-1191.

Other useful references:

California Department of Aging Tip Sheets for Seniors (available in multiple languages)

FEMA Prepare For Emergencies Now: Information for Older Americans brochure

AARP Operation Emergency Prepare website

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Emergency Prescription Assistance Program

U.S. Administration on Aging Eldercare Locator, to connect to local resources for elders and their families

U.S. Food and Drug Administration Safe Drug Use After a Natural Disaster

Federal Bureau of Investigation Fraud Target: Senior Citizens