Disaster Preparedness for Seniors: Protect Your Physical and Financial Well-Being

From hurricanes along the East Coast to raging wildfires on the West Coast, we all need to be prepared for emergencies. For seniors, this is especially true. Reduced mobility and other physical conditions might require you to take extra precautions to protect yourself.

Here are four steps to safeguard your physical and financial health should disaster strike.

1. Get Prepared

Ready.gov, a Department of Homeland Security website, recommends that you understand the types of regional disasters that could affect you, such as wildfires or flooding. Make sure you have access to up-to-date information about local weather conditions. For example, the FEMA app allows you to receive weather alerts for up to five U.S. locations.

2. Make a Plan

Don’t wait until disaster strikes; plan for the potential well in advance. You may have physical limitations that necessitate your evacuation well before others would leave. You should know in advance the possible escape routes you would use and get familiar with them if you are not already.

Your plan should take into account your physical needs. For example, if you need dialysis, you should know the location of multiple facilities that could help you.

In addition, Ready.gov recommends:

  • Create a network of family, friends, and others who will be able to help you in an emergency. Create and test the plan with them in advance.

  • If a clinic or hospital provides routine treatments, find out their emergency plans, and identify backup service providers.

3. Set Up Your Finances

Make a kit that is ready to grab and go should you need to evacuate. Include cash (ATMs might not be working), ID cards like your driver’s license and passport, and Medicare and Medicaid cards.

Make a list of your financial and related providers, including banks, credit cards, insurance companies, brokerages, utility companies, and mortgage provider. Include contact phone numbers and account numbers—you do not want to have to scour the internet (if it is available) for this information in times of crisis.

Make a photo inventory of your home and possessions using your camera or a cellphone. These photos can prove helpful if you need to file a claim with your insurance company.

You should also consider including copies of your insurance policies, the last three years’ worth of tax statements, and updated financial statements. You can keep hard copies or store them digitally on a USB flash drive or on the cloud. These all have drawbacks (for example, you could lose the hard copies or the cloud may not be accessible), so consider which one you are most comfortable with.

4. Take Care of Your Physical Needs

Make sure that your medications are easily accessible and that you have enough for at least a week’s worth. In addition, make a list of your medical providers, including names, addresses, and phone numbers, and make another list of your prescriptions, including dosage information.

Keep the lists in your grab-and-go kit so you don’t have to remember to find them in the scramble of an evacuation. Your kit should also include extra eyeglasses, hearing aids and batteries, oxygen, or any other assistive items you may need.

It should also contain water, food, flashlights, blankets, and other essentials that will last you for at least three days.

For Safety’s Sake

This preparation may seem like a lot of work for a calamity that might never happen. However, natural disasters do occur, and the work you do now could provide for your safety later, as well as making rebuilding a smoother process. In the meantime, you can enjoy peace of mind that, should a disaster happen, you will be ready for it.

Additional Resources

The Ready.Gov website provides a wealth of information including: