Improving Home Safety for the Elderly: Part 2 – Home Emergency Preparedness

In part 1 of our series, we looked at improving home safety for the elderly in regards to fall prevention. In part 2, I would like to spend some time talking about home planning for emergencies and natural disasters. In late August of 2005, many of us watched in disbelief as Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast and soon became the costliest hurricane of all time. Within a few days, the federal disaster declaration covered 90,000 square miles, an area almost as large as the United Kingdom.


It is in those times that many of us ask ourselves, “What would I have done had that happened to me?” Events such as Hurricane Katrina serve as a great reminder that each of us needs to have an emergency home plan in place. Even more so, a home plan for the elderly is crucial if home safety is to be maintained during a time of crisis. Let me take a moment to suggest three home planning necessities for the elderly

1. Get an Emergency Supply Kit

Many people often overlook this vital step in home planning until it is too late. Emergency supply kits should include, but not be limited to, the following items.

a) Water – one gallon per person per day for at least three days; for drinking and sanitation.

b) Food – at least a three-day supply of non-perishable items

c) Radio – battery-powered with extra batteries

d) First Aid Kit

e) Flashlight – with extra batteries

f) Whistle – to signal for help

This list is not comprehensive, but for more information on what to include in your emergency supply kit, visit this website.

2. Form a Support Network

The American Red Cross recommends that seniors form a personal support network as an important safety measure in home planning. Below is a list of recommended topics that should be discussed with your support network.

a) Make arrangements for your support network to check-in with you after an emergency or disaster.

b) Exchange important keys.

c) Practice a communication system regarding how to contact each other during an emergency. Do not count on telephones.

d) Let your support network know when you will be traveling or leaving town and when you will return.

For further information on this topic, visit the American Red Cross’ website on support networks here.

3. Gather Emergency Documents

One last important step in home planning for emergency situations is to gather copies of all important emergency documents and place them with your emergency supply kit. When natural disasters or other emergencies occur, there is often not enough time to gather these items. Below is a list of recommended documents.

a) Medical Insurance and Medicare Cards

b) A list of the style and serial numbers of any medical equipment or life-sustaining devices

c) A list including the contact information of your support network

d) A list of current medications

Sometimes you can see disasters coming; sometimes you cannot. This new year, take that next step in helping someone you love by assisting them with their home planning for an emergency.

Also, check back soon to view our last part of this series: Improving Home Safety for the Elderly – Hazardous Substance Safety.

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