Disaster Preparedness for Seniors

If you’re considering signing up for a medical alert system, the chances are that you understand the importance of being prepared for an emergency.

The need to be prepared has been getting attention an awful lot of attention lately in the aftermath of recent hurricanes and earthquakes.

An emergency or disaster can strike at any time and force you to evacuate your home. Or you might be compelled to stay in your house without essential services, like water or electricity.

There are steps that seniors can take to be prepared whether they’re looking to be ready in case of flooding, snowstorms, hurricanes or earthquakes.


Being prepared is especially important for seniors because many of them live alone, don’t drive, and may not have a good sense of hearing, vision or smell. They also may have special medical equipment they need to take with them and keep operational. Here are some tips on how seniors can prepare for an emergency:

  1. Make an emergency kit or “go-to” bag. Disaster preparedness experts recommend that you keep a bag packed in one place and ready to go. It should have enough supplies to last for three days or more.

Use a bag that’s easy to carry, such as a backpack or a piece of luggage with wheels. Label essential items like a wheelchair or cane with your name and contact information. Some things to include in your “got-to” bag are:

  • Bottled water. Enough for three days of drinking water for one person. If possible, keep a two-week supply at home.
  • Food. Nonperishable food like canned goods.
  • A flashlight with backup batteries.
  • A seven-day supply of medications or other medical items.
  • Personal hygiene items, such as toilet paper and trash bags.
  • An extra charger or battery for your cellphone.
  • A list of contact information for family and friends.
  • Cash and coins.
  • A change of clothing.
  • Pet supplies.
  • An extra set of keys.
  • A deck of cards or a book for passing the time.

Check your supplies every six months and replace any items that are expired or will soon expire, such as food and medication. Once a year, change out batteries.


  1. Make a plan. If you take the time to plan ahead, you can avoid some of the stress and anxiety of being caught unprepared when an emergency strikes.
  • Talk to family or other people about how you can prepare for an emergency.
  • Designate one or more persons to check in with you during a disaster.
  • Plan an escape route out of your home. Make sure escape routes are wheelchair accessible if you or anyone in your household uses a wheelchair.
  • Learn where the safest places are in your home in case you need to shelter in place, such as during a tornado or earthquake.
  • Plan for what you’ll do with your pets. In most cases, you can take your pets with you if you have to evacuate, although many emergency shelters may not accept them. Find out in advance where you can take your pets during an evacuation.
    Related: What Will Happen to Your Pet If You’re Gone?
  • Find out how to turn off your utilities, such as water, gas and electricity in the event that gas pipes or power lines are damaged.
  • Keep copies of important records, like birth certificates, passports and insurance documents in a secure place, like a fireproof box or at your bank’s safe-deposit vault.
  • If you wear hearing aids, one tip is to store them in a container that is attached to your bedside stand with Velcro. That way you can find them quickly, even in the dark, and won’t have to worry about them shifting out of place and getting lost in the commotion.


Finally, think about how you can help other people. Is there anyone you know in your building or neighborhood who could use extra help if a disaster occurs? Reflect on how you can help them out with being prepared before and during an emergency.


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