How to prepare your loved ones for emergencies

June 5, 2023

It's the worst to be far away from your loved ones when they are facing a catastrophe, whether you're only a few streets away or across the country. It is normal to worry about your loved ones' safety and feel helpless.

There are many other events that can cause havoc, such as fires or pandemics.

BrightStar Care can help you and your family prepare for many different situations that could be dangerous.

Practice makes perfect

You knew what to do if the fire alarm went on when you were in school. You were taught by your teacher which door to open, where to stand and how to practice several times per year. All families should do the same, particularly those with elderly loved ones living alone. Plan your life around the following elements:
  • When and where to go
  • Protecting critical resources
  • Creating your emergency kit
  • Stay in touch
You should review your plan with (and for) your family members regularly, and practice it with them. You can remind your family that disaster drills are held regularly by corporations, churches and schools.

Where to go and when to go

When the tornado sirens sound, when smoke appears in the home, or when a public emergency is declared, it's easy to panic. Provide your family with a visual chart or list of places to go in different situations. This will help relieve some stress.

In situations where they must leave their home (fires, gas leaks, lack of warmth, etc.), it is important to have a meeting place set up. It's crucial to establish a place to meet, as well as the steps to take. It may be that they go to your neighbor's home or meet at a specific spot on the street, call 911 and then contact you. It's a good idea to have your family members give you the contact information of your neighbor in advance of a situation like this.

Evacuations on a large scale (hurricanes and major floods; chemical spills or wildfires) will require different efforts. It will take different measures, since it is not possible to go to the neighbor's home or nearby fire station. Your loved ones can call you in these cases, listen to local news and contact their city or state's disaster agency. Download the Federal Emergency Management Agency FEMA for you AND your loved ones. mobile app Sign up for text messages to be informed of the disaster plans in their area.

Protecting Critical Resources

Make sure that you have enough power sources, such as backup generators or battery backups, if your loved one relies on respiratory equipment, such as oxygen tanks and ventilators, or equipment for feeding and nutrition processes. Your local utility should be notified of the health needs of your loved ones. Utilities give priority to vulnerable people when it comes to power restoration, due in part to the need for life-sustaining equipment.

Encourage your loved one to also reach out to their neighbors, church, or community group to establish contacts with people who could help them in an urgent situation. The worst thing that can happen to a survivor is for no one to know they exist.

Call your county emergency management office to add your family member to the list of people who are prioritized in an emergency if mass evacuation is required.

Creating your emergency kit

You should have a "grab and go" bag to take with you during an evacuation or if there is a tornado in the area. Even though a fire is an emergency, you and your family should not stop in order to grab something.

If there is a fire in the house, it's important to leave as soon as possible. It's also a good idea for a friend to have a small emergency kit in their home, just in case someone you love gets locked out, has a fire, or is temporarily displaced.

FEMA The list is comprehensive, but some items (like three days worth of food) might be too heavy for a quick grab-and go in an emergency. It's a good idea to keep the longer-term items (2 or 3 day) in a separate travel bag or box. FEMA has recommended the following items:

Daily Living, Food and Drink

  • Water (one gallon of water per person, per day for drinking and sanitation).
  • Food (at the very least, a 3-day supply of nonperishable foods)
  • Special dietary products or eating aids
  • Can opener manual (for both human and animal food).
  • Paper towels, cups, and mess kits (plates with plastic silverware or other meal supplies).
  • Extra water, pet food, dog tags, leashes and service animal vest
  • Diapers, feminine supplies, adult bladder control needs, etc.
  • Each person should have a sleeping bag or blanket (plus one for the elderly and ill).
  • Change of clothing for all and sturdy shoes
  • Garbage bags, plastic ties, and hand sanitizer (for personal sanitation).

Medical and health needs

  • The documents section below provides more information.
  • Non-prescription medicines such as pain relievers and anti-diarrhea medication, antacids etc.
  • If medications or special foods need to be kept cool, a cooler and ice pack is recommended
  • First aid kit: Make sure that creams, pain relievers, and other items are not outdated; include a no-touch thermometer as well as a pulse oximeter.
  • EpiPens, inhalers, diabetes supplies, etc.
  • Two N95 masks are required per family member
  • Contact solution and/or glasses and/or contact lenses
  • Extra batteries and hearing aids
  • The model numbers of assistive devices, such as wheelchairs, canes and oxygen tanks
  • Plan for adequate oxygen supply and backup plan
  • Identification band (full Name, Contact Number for Family Member/Caregiver and Allergies)

General Supplies, Communication

  • Hand-crank or battery-powered radio with a Weather Radio and NOAA Alert Tone
  • Extra batteries and flashlight
  • Extra batteries and chargers for cell phones
  • Use a loud whistle or airhorn to call for assistance
  • Plastic sheeting and duct taping (to cover in place)
  • Use pliers or a wrench to turn off the utilities
  • Fire extinguisher
  • Matches in an airtight container
  • Cash (in the event that electronic payment systems are not working due to problems with power or data)

Important Documents

The CDC suggests that you keep physical copies of all your documents in a waterproof container or bag and take a picture of each one. Consider creating a care plan you can refer to in an emergency.

  • List of all medications prescribed, including dosage, frequency, and the name of the medication.
  • Information on how to contact family members, physicians, pharmacies, and/or caregivers
  • Medical Insurance Cards
  • Photo IDs and Social Security Cards
  • Documents for durable power of attorneys and/or medical powers of attorney
  • List of food and medicine allergies
  • Contact information for insurance agents, attorneys, bank accounts, mortgage documents, titles of cars, etc.
  • Consider switching to direct deposit or electronic payments if your loved one is dependent on Social Security benefits or other benefits.

Staying connected

Uncertainty is one of the biggest struggles of being away from loved ones, regardless of distance. It's important to make sure your family knows how to contact you. This way, they can easily find it in case of an emergency. Print a list with important numbers and names in a large typeface. This can be taped on the fridge door, placed on their nightstand, or folded in their wallet.

The resources listed below not only provide your loved ones the necessary information to contact you but can also alert you to any potential problems. These apps and online tools are usually configured to track multiple locations.

Earthquake Alert Service The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) You can customize your email and text messages based on the location and magnitude of an earthquake.

Weather Alerts Weather Channel or other apps of this type can be set up to alert you when there are dangerous weather conditions, such as severe heat, wind advisories and bitterly cold temperatures. Tornadoes and hurricanes may also be notified. You may be worried that your loved ones will not hear the alerts because they may not have a TV or their notification device on. Calling them can put your mind at rest and help ensure they reach a safe location as soon as possible.

BrightStar Care, is dedicated to providing care for seniors and individuals with special needs. We adhere to the National Patient Safety Goals set forth by The Joint Commission. Our nurses will help you create an emergency plan as part of the overall care plan for your family member.

Call us at 850-238-3270 to learn how our in-home care experts can help your loved one