Special Needs Shelters

Planning for Weather-related Emergencies

Hurricanes are the largest and most powerful storms on earth. Weather reports these past few days are causing jitters here in South Florida! It has been ten years since Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast causing terrible devastation in New Orleans.

Wilma NOAA Satellite Photo

Wilma NOAA Satellite Photo

During this current Atlantic hurricane season that runs from June 1 to November 30, Tropical Storm Claudette formed and dissipated by July 16 as a tropical cyclone, and Hurricane Danny fizzled out before reaching the US coast. However, Tropical Storm Erika is now brewing and her path is uncertain, but could threaten Florida.

My husband and I experienced what it was like to be in the grips of Hurricane Wilma in 2005. When Wilma finally passed, we had minor roof damage, but the restoration of electricity took weeks, and the cleanup in our area took months.

As I read and listen to the news, there have already been many storms and tornadoes in various States causing havoc and devastation to thousands of families. I got to thinking of all the families who have loved ones diagnosed with Alzheimer’s or dementia and how this might be impacting you.

In the 1980’s, when my parents retired and left Michigan for Florida, they exchanged tornadoes for hurricanes. I don’t remember the year, but my parents did have to evacuate from their double-wide mobile home for a shelter in the face of an impending hurricane. My father would have made a great Boy Scout! His motto in life seemed to be, “Be prepared!” Being prepared is a good discipline to have, regardless if you are male or female. It means that you have thought out beforehand a situation that might occur. That way, you know the right thing to do at the right moment.

Dad organized a small metal file box with a lock for all their important documents and papers. It was easy to place in the trunk of their car to take with them to the evacuation shelter. He had a list of things they needed to pack. This list included their medications, flashlights, and items to pass away their time, like crossword puzzles, a pack of cards, and paperback books. Mom was in the early stages of Alzheimer’s. She was able to cope staying and sleeping in the shelter during this stressful situation. Fortunately, the hurricane passed by their city that year without major damage.

I hope that those of you who live in areas prone to severe storms, tornadoes, or hurricanes are prepared. Even if you will be staying in your home instead of a shelter, you should have a plan. Talk to your family physician or health care provider about a realistic plan for your safety and that of your loved one. Know what you can and can’t do.

I researched the county where I live and discovered that there is a “Vulnerable Population Registry.” This registry allows people who are disabled, frail, or have health issues to sign up in advance with their city. This allows emergency workers to plan a better response for vulnerable residents in the event there has to be a recovery effort. You may want to check if your area has a similar registry, as well as a Special Needs Shelter. Some shelters may require pre-registration. Also check about evacuation transportation if you think you may need it.

Here is a list of some steps to take to be prepared in the event of a weather-related emergency:

  1. Pre-register for important services such as: a special needs shelter, evacuation transportation, vulnerable population registry. Put identification labels on any medical equipment you will take with you to a shelter, like a wheelchair, walker, or nebulizer. Pack an extra pair of glasses and extra hearing aid batteries, if needed.
  2. Make arrangements for your pet. If you will be leaving your home for an emergency shelter, check if they take pets. If not, you will need to make other arrangements.
  3. Prepare two lists. One list should have phone numbers of people you can count on to help you. These are family or friends who are familiar with your loved one’s condition. The second list is of health information. Include all your doctors, insurance policy numbers, hospital preferences, medical conditions, current medications, and your pharmacy. Put these lists in a large zip lock plastic bag. Also, send a copy to a family member or friend to keep on hand.
  4. Prepare equipment and supplies. It is wise, if you plan to stay home, to have at least a three-day supply of ready-to-eat, non-perishable food and water (one gallon per person per day.) Don’t forget the manual can opener.
  5. Check to ensure you will have an ample supply of your prescription drugs and personal hygiene items. If roads are blocked or flooded after severe storms, you may not be able to get to a pharmacy if needed.
  6. Notify your family to make sure they know your plans and where you will be staying. If a storm affects your area, cell phone towers may be down, and you might not have use of your cell phone. Learn how to text message. Out-of-town and out-of-state relatives will worry if they don’t know your plans and a way to reach you.
  7. Make sure your home will be secure if you stay or evacuate. Call family or friends, or a company to help install hurricane shutters. Ask them to run errands for you for supplies of food and water if you don’t have time to do that. Fill up your car’s tank with gasoline. Check your portable radio, TV, and flashlights, and have extra batteries on hand.
  8. Keep some cash on hand. In the event of a power outage, you might not have access to an ATM.
  9. Check the website for Area Agency on Aging centers if you need to find the location of a shelter near you: http://www.n4a.org/.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has prepared a four-minute video and information about items for an emergency preparedness kit. You can watch the video by clicking here: http://www.fema.gov/media-library/assets/videos/78859.

Check out additional information for putting together a supply kit here: www.ready.gov/kit.

I hope you won’t have to put this plan into action, but it’s far better to be prepared than not. Benjamin Franklin puts it in stronger terms: “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.”

Be prepared, my friends!