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Preparedness Month: Helping Oklahoma Seniors Stay Prepared for Emergencies

In Oklahoma, residents normally have a plan for severe weather. We make sure to have a safe shelter during tornados and prepare for ice storms by collecting food, water and supplies.

Preparing for a natural disaster can be challenging for older adults. Emergency plans can be difficult to implement for seniors who may have mobility, hearing or vision obstacles. Fear causes anxiety. Preparing and talking about emergencies can help reduce stress.

We can’t predict every emergency, but we can take an ounce of prevention and prepare loved ones for dangerous scenarios. Learn about possible risks for seniors and how to help them with disaster preparedness.

Obstacles seniors face

Disasters can strike fast. Some may confine you to your home for several days, while others may force you to relocate. Both are threatening situations.

“Seniors might worry and ask themselves, ‘How do I prepare? What do I need? How do I get those things?’” INTEGRIS Community & Senior Wellness Director Cathy Patterson says.

When stuck inside a home, seniors with mobility issues may find it difficult to find supplies or alert others that they need items like food, water or medicine. Those who provide them care may have trouble getting to them. Mobility can also affect a senior’s ability to quickly relocate to a safer area in a time of crisis.

Some seniors with hearing impairments may struggle to hear tornado sirens or television warning systems. Visual impairment can also obscure their ability to clearly receive alerts or news during a disaster.

How to prep seniors for severe and dangerous weather

Help seniors prepare for different types of disasters. Prepping for a snowstorm is different from being tornado ready.

If you’re stuck inside your home during snowy and icy weather, be sure to have plenty of supplies ready to go. If power loss is a possibility in your area, consider a generator. This can help keep the lights on and warm a house during severe snow and ice storms. If seniors have trouble securing these items for themselves, offer to help them shop and organize their emergency supplies.

Tornadoes and flash flooding come with less warning and certainty. If the weather is looking potentially dangerous, call your elderly loved ones and help them be alert. Make sure they have a safe area to go for storm and tornado warnings. If you are able, offer your home as shelter to help them feel more comfortable with the potential weather dangers. Even if the weather turns out to be okay, it’s best to over-prepare.

As a general rule, keep a week’s amount of food and water ready to go at all times and keep items like weatherproof boots, flashlights, batteries and blankets in one accessible place within a senior’s home. Be sure to keep a list of emergency phone numbers and contacts handy that a senior can use if needed.

How to talk about emergencies with seniors

Be respectful and sensitive when speaking about disaster preparedness. Try not to scare or cause anxiety when talking to seniors about the steps they should take in case of an emergency.

Be a partner in preparedness. Be practical and offer solutions. Help them arrange a plan for different types of scenarios and help them purchase appropriate supplies. Make yourself a resource and emergency contact. Help them register for resources and lists.

“Let them know you will call them and or check on them. Assure them it’s ok for them to call you whenever they need to,” Patterson says.

Oklahoma disaster resources for seniors

Learn about the accessible alert systems and resources available in our state. Oklahoma City Emergency Management partners with Deaf Link. Oklahoma City residents, who are deaf, blind, hard of hearing or both deaf and blind can subscribe to receive accessible alerts during emergencies.

The Red Cross is a great resource for seniors to learn more about disaster preparedness. It’s also a great place to volunteer if you’d like to help a wide range of Oklahoma residents. Make sure you have a senior in your care register for the check-up list.

“Give the senior’s name, location and phone number to local Red Cross to add to their list of persons to check on,” Patterson says. “Let them know they are not alone and will not be stranded with no one looking for them. Tell them all of the things you have put in place for them.”

You can’t prevent an emergency, but you can help a senior prepare for one. Start your emergency preparedness plan sooner rather than later.