September is National Preparedness Month and this year’s theme is “Disasters Don’t Plan Ahead. You Can.” In the wake of Hurricane Harvey and the devastation that emergencies like this can cause, it is a timely moment to remind everyone to make their emergency preparedness plans and to also share helpful resources. As yet another hurricane brews in the Atlantic, we extend support from ACL to plan, prepare, and recover from natural disasters.
Emergencies can happen anywhere and without warning so with a little advance thinking and actions, people and their communities can be better ready to cope when a disaster occurs. Advanced preparation is especially important for older adults and people with disabilities because there may have additional needs to consider, including medical issues, accessibility, transportation, and more.
The federal government has guidance and resources on emergency preparedness planning at Ready.gov, including information specifically for older adults and people with disabilities. Emergency preparedness tips include:
- Plan a support network in advance with a contact list.
- Build an emergency kit with your unique considerations in mind with what you need to maintain your health, safety and independence. For example, include any specialized items that you may need such as extra wheelchair batteries, oxygen, catheters, medication, food for service animals, and any other items that you might need.
- Wear medical alert tags, bracelets, or have this information with you.
- Prepare alternate plans for help if you use assistive technology, communications devices, and accessible transportation.
- Include your service animals and pets in your emergency plans including the kit and plan for alternative options as not all shelters may accept pets.
- Plan for a power outage.
ACL has also compiled resources for individuals, service providers, and communities for emergency preparedness. The page includes links to handy preparedness checklists for individuals and families, plus hotlines for emergency situations.
Organizations providing services to people with disabilities and older adults should also do emergency preparedness planning. Guidance for organizations can be accessed at ready.gov/business. ACL encourages grantees to be proactive in communicating with their project officer at the agency so that needs and information can be shared in timely way. For example, Independent Living grantees will receive a response request to complete prior to a disaster (whenever possible).
ACL recently released new emergency planning guidance for the Independent Living Network in the form of a frequently asked questions document about disaster response and emergency relief efforts for people with disabilities.
ACL also supports the aging network with emergency preparation efforts with resources on the website. Check out an upcoming webinar with the Federal Emergency Management Agency about “Preparedness Planning for Senior Citizen Communities” on September 26 at noon ET. Additionally, it’s important for long-term care facilities to plan for emergencies and CMS has a checklist to help.
Community preparedness resources are also available on the ACL webpage, including links to guidance from the Federal Emergency Management Agency. In order to assist people with disabilities and older adults during and after an emergency, it is critical that emergency planners take a “whole-community” approach by including these individuals and service providers into the preparation process. This means planning should include long-term services and supports providers, health care facilities, Area Agencies on Aging, Centers for Independent Living, Protection & Advocacy organizations, Developmental Disability Councils, and Aging and Disability Resource Centers, among others in the planning. These organizations can help plan and coordinate during emergencies, as well as enhance practice scenarios with state and local emergency management agencies and first responders.
While we are ever hopeful to avoid emergency situations, the best solution is to always be prepared to minimize danger and maximize our nationwide ability to successfully respond.
Additional Emergency Preparedness Resources:
- ACL webpage on Emergency Planning for Older Americans and People with Disabilities
- Resources for Tribes on emergency preparedness
- Resources for planning continuity of business operations
- Tips on preparing for power outages
- ACL National Family Caregiver Support Program-Just in Case Emergency Readiness for Older Adults and Caregivers
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on Emergency Readiness for People with Disabilities
- CDC Emergency Preparedness for Older Adults
An additional resource, complete with templates to drive internal organizational decision-making: http://www.enterprisecommunity.org/solutions-and-innovation/green-communities/tools-and-services/ready-respond-disaster-staffing-toolkit
This resource from Enterprise Community covers preparedness, response and recovery phases of emergency management.