Retiree and Senior Citizen Preparedness
You may have reached a point in life that it takes a little longer to accomplish projects than it used to. You may in fact need more time and assistance to prepare for and recover from a hurricane. Prepare and plan now before disaster strikes.
Seniors should commit to activating their plan early so that they can “beat the rush” of last minute supply shoppers and evacuees.
In the event that you are advised to evacuate, leave early during the voluntary phase of evacuation to avoid extended periods of time on the road.
Prepare your home now: locate important documents, identify items that you wish to relocate for safe keeping, or that you will take with you in an evacuation; this will save you time later.
Contact your doctor to make arrangements for prescription refills, or if possible take advantage of increased supply during hurricane season.
If you have certain lodging requirements identify sources now before a storm threatens our area.
If you need assistance in preparing your home such as relocating outdoor furniture, plants, yard equipment, or in installing storm shutters, plywood or moving furniture in your home; identify now who will commit to help you. Also identify at least one alternate person to assist you in the event your primary helper is unavailable.
Establish a communications plan with a relative or friend outside of the area; let someone know your intentions and whereabouts.
Before the Season Begins
Stock your home: It’s a good idea to stock a supply of food, water and supplies for any emergency. Any season can bring disaster and affect your ability to get to the store for food or medication. Even a simple water main break could leave you without water for a few days.
Emergency Phone Numbers: Post emergency phone numbers near the phone. Include police, fire, emergency medical, doctors, relatives, utility companies, insurance agent and the Emergency Management Agency.
Water: Each person’s need for drinking water varies depending on age, physical condition and time of year. The average person needs at least one gallon of water or other liquid to drink per day, but more would be better. Also keep a couple of gallons on hand for sanitary purposes. Store water in plastic, airtight containers and either replace or chlorinate it (4 drops plain bleach [unscented, non-detergent] per quart of water or 16 drops per gallon of water) every two months to be sure it is pure.
Food: Supplies should include enough non-perishable, high-energy foods to feed you and your family for up to three days. You may be stranded in your home for several days or local stores may run low on supplies. Also, if you go to a public shelter, it is helpful to take as much non-perishable food as you can carry.
Documents: Place important documents in a waterproof container such as a zip-lock bag and take them with you if you evacuate or store them in a safe out-of-harm’s-way location.
Medicines: It is very important to keep an adequate supply of any medicines you take. If you are stranded in your home or are asked to go to a public shelter, you may not be able to get medication easily.
Even though you have emergency supplies, don’t make the mistake of trying to “ride out” a hurricane at home. EVACUATE if local authorities tell you to do so, especially if you live near a body of water that may flood. Leave early before the roads become flooded and you cannot get out.
Plan for Evacuation
When you evacuate, you may wish to take some of the previously listed supplies with you, but don’t take more than you can carry. Put your essential emergency supplies in an easy to carry container such as a backpack or a duffle bag. If you are going to a public shelter, the most important items to take are your medication, a blanket, the portable radio, an extra change of clothing and perhaps a small supply of packaged quick-energy foods like raisins and granola bars. Make sure the bag has a tag with your name.
You can take certain actions ahead of time to make evacuation easier: Keep your gas tank as full as possible during hurricane season. In an evacuation, fuel may be difficult to get and gas-station lines will be long.
Team up with a “partner” a neighbor or a friend living nearby, to plan your evacuation together. By sharing supplies and a ride, each of you can help the other.
If possible, make plans in advance to stay with friends or relatives living inland on higher ground if you need to evacuate.
Learn the recommended evacuation route from your home to safer, higher ground. Local broadcasts will tell you where to go during an evacuation, but you can learn the safest route ahead of time by contacting your county emergency management agency.
Practice your evacuation plan. Take a lovely weekend and literally drive your evacuation route to become familiar with it.
Stay Aware of Weather Conditions
Listen to daily weather forecasts during hurricane season. As hurricanes develop, they are monitored closely by the National Weather Service. The Weather Service issues two types of notices about approaching hurricanes: a hurricane watch and a hurricane warning.
When a Hurricane Watch is Issued
- Stay tuned to local stations for the latest weather information.
- Contact your “partner” to review your plans.
- Be sure your car is fueled and ready to go, or contact the person who agreed to give you a ride in an evacuation to re-confirm your arrangements.
- Gather your emergency supplies, placing them in your car or near the front door if you are riding with someone else.
- Store away all objects on your lawn or patio that could be carried by the wind. Lawn furniture, garbage cans, garden tools, toys, signs and a number of other harmless items can become deadly missiles in hurricane winds.
- Gather up important papers and place them in a waterproof container with your non-perishable food supply or in your safe deposit box.
- If you own a computer, download the valuable files onto discs and either put them with your important papers or in your safe deposit box. Seal the computer hard drive and monitor in plastic yard-leaf bags and place them as high off the floor and in as wind-resistant a space as reasonably practical.
- A hurricane warning is issued when a hurricane is expected to strike within 24 hours. A hurricane warning will probably also include an assessment of flood danger in coastal and inland areas, small craft warnings, gale warnings and recommended emergency procedures.
- Closely monitor local and national weather advisories. If you have difficulty driving at night, don’t wait until local officials issue evacuation orders. Make your own decision to leave before the orders are issued and avoid the crowd. At the latest, leave when the voluntary evacuation is issued, but take advantage of the daylight conditions and the less crowded roads, highway services and hotels…leave early. But, do have a route and destination planned before you depart and advise friends, neighbors or family of your intentions.
- If a hurricane warning is issued and an evacuation is ordered, local radio and television stations will announce information on where you should go and the best route to take. Call your “partner” and make arrangements to leave.
- Don’t panic if you cannot get a ride. In a hurricane evacuation, police usually patrol each street to warn those people who may not have a radio or television. You can stop one of these officers and they will help you.
- Leave early! Do not wait. Roads can flood and leave you stranded.
- You should not use elevators to leave your building. The electricity could cut off and leave you stranded.
Before you Leave
- Close and lock your windows and doors, lowering blinds and closing curtains to keep flying rubble out. If possible, you may wish to secure plywood over the windows.
- Fill bathtubs and other clean containers with water for later use should water become unavailable.
- Follow the approved evacuation route from your home to safe, higher ground.
- Do not stay in a mobile home during a hurricane. Even if a mobile home is anchored, there is no guarantee it will withstand hurricane-force winds.
During the Hurricane
- If you are unable to evacuate before the hurricane hits, stay inside. Do not be fooled by the eye of the hurricane and its temporary period of peaceful weather conditions. The length of time within the eye varies from several minutes to a couple of hours, depending on the size of the storm. The larger and more intense the hurricane, the larger the eye.
- Stay away from windows and glass doors. You could be struck by flying debris.
- Continue to listen to your radio or television for hurricane updates and emergency information.
After the Hurricane - When you get Home
- The emergency management agency will announce when it is safe to return to your home.
- Look for visible structural damage before you go inside. Watch for loose or dangling electric power lines and broken sewer, water or gas lines; notify local officials immediately if you see any.
- Ensure all electrical outlets and appliances are dry and free of water before using them.
- Do not drink water from the faucet until officially notified that it is safe from contamination. Use your emergency supply or boil tap water before drinking it.
- Without electricity, food in your refrigerator could spoil in a few hours. Don’t eat it. Food in a freezer could partially thaw but would be safe to eat for several days. Food should not be refrozen once it begins to thaw.
- Snakes, animals and insects instinctively travel inland to higher ground to escape approaching floodwaters. Expect them and be prepared to protect yourself.
- Careful planning and quick response to a hurricane threat will reduce damage to your home and could save your life. Most importantly, you must evacuate if you are told to do so by local officials. Material possessions are replaceable, your life is not. Take action now to be better prepared for hurricane season.
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Background Picture: Manuel Mesa hammers nails into plywood on his house in Lake Worth, Fla. Saturday Sept. 25, 2004 in preparation for Hurricane Jeanne. (AP Photo/David Adame)