Seniors: No matter the emergency, plan ahead

Disaster preparation for seniors includes having information, a plan and an emergency kit.

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Having a plan for an emergency makes sense. But when things are going smoothly, it’s easy to forget about it. That means a sudden snowfall or big windstorm is an immediate reminder.

Remember last winter? This year may not be as severe, however it might be time to give it some thought. If you have to go somewhere important, to work, the hospital or somewhere else, make sure you have a full tank of gas in the car. If it’s going to snow, check to see that you have an ice scraper, a shovel, a blanket, gloves and anything else you might need in the car as well. Actually check the car for your supplies, your grandkids may have used the ice scraper for something else. Your routine will be disrupted, but planning can help you keep the disruption to a minimum.

For seniors especially, make sure you have your medications on hand at home and anything else you might need, including warm, comfortable clothing and shoes.

Terry Hackney, executive director at the Blue Mountain Chapter of the Red Cross said, "The first thing you can do is get a copy of our booklet, Disaster Preparation by Seniors For Seniors. That’s a good beginning." According to Hackney, take three main steps in preparing for emergencies: Have an emergency kit, plan and be informed.

Emergency planning specifically for seniors is not that different from others, Hackney said. "Our past experience, with the windstorm, we found that seniors can become isolated very quickly, if you don’t have your own transportation. If you lose your heat, have plenty of blankets and warm clothing. Have a radio with a hand crank on it. Some even have a flashlight on one end. Or a weather radio, be informed about what’s going on. They should also have a list of people they can call to stay in touch with loved ones. I hesitate to tell people to have cell phones because cell service can go out just like the land lines."

Those sentiments are echoed by Patty Foster-Choisser, Meals on Wheels Coordinator and Emergency Planner for the Center at The Park, "We have a proactive plan, for emergencies, especially pandemic flu. We must not just wait and see." She said having information and a plan will help relieve the stress of being afraid. To help seniors be prepared, the Meals on Wheels program delivers two emergency meals to be stored. If the electricity is out, they have emergency military rations, that don’t require refrigeration.

There are a variety of organizations that can provide some help, everything from home delivered meals to help with chores. Call and ask for information, find out what criteria the organization has and if you qualify.

At Seniors Helping Seniors, owner Duane Cinnamon said, "We have a plan in place, if we have a senior citizen that needs something. If there’s snow or ice and our care provider can’t get there, I will do it myself. I’ve got a four-wheel drive truck and chains. I will get there if they need something."

Harvey Crowder, administrator at the Walla Walla County Health Department agreed with Hackney and added, "Have an emergency preparedness kit and be sure to have a two week supply of extra medication in it. You need to have water and a three day supply of food. Make sure you know where your medical records are and how to get a hold of your doctor. Have a family plan, make sure someone else also knows where to find it. Then there’s my usual advice: be current on all your immunizations, including your annual influenza immunization."

Director of Walla Walla County Emergency Management Gay Ernst added, "For the seniors that are on their own at home, their connection with neighbors is crucial." She said emergency supplies and a source of heat are also important. "You need food, warmth and a hand cranked or battery operated radio. It’s really all the standard stuff everyone should do, but for seniors it’s a little more critical to have someone watching out for them," Ernst said. She also suggested that if you have to go out, be sure to have proper footwear.

With some advance planning you can stay safe and take fewer chances. According to Volunteer Chore Program Manager Robin Dowsett, that planning ahead helps if you want to volunteer to help others, as well. "How winter affects our organization, our biggest problem is that people realize they want to help and it takes awhile to do background checks. We can’t turn on a dime. I wish I had an office full of volunteers all ready to go." So if you’re thinking about helping out in the winter you can get started now. "When you’re inspired to volunteer, call that day before you lose the inspiration."

It’s important to be balanced and not live in a constant state of panic, but giving some thought to what you would need or how you can assist in an emergency will help in a pinch.

Karlene Ponti can be reached by calling 509-526-8324 or by e-mail at karleneponti@wwub.com.

Helpful Contacts

The Center at The Park, 509-527-3775

Red Cross, 509-525-7380

Seniors Helping Seniors, 509-876-2672

Volunteer Chore, 509-525-0572

Walla Walla County Health Department, 509-524-2650

Having a plan for an emergency makes sense. But when things are going smoothly, it’s easy to forget about it. That means a sudden snowfall or big windstorm is an immediate reminder.

Remember last winter? This year may not be as severe, however it might be time to give it some thought. If you have to go somewhere important, to work, the hospital or somewhere else, make sure you have a full tank of gas in the car. If it’s going to snow, check to see that you have an ice scraper, a shovel, a blanket, gloves and anything else you might need in the car as well. Actually check the car for your supplies, your grandkids may have used the ice scraper for something else. Your routine will be disrupted, but planning can help you keep the disruption to a minimum.

For seniors especially, make sure you have your medications on hand at home and anything else you might need, including warm, comfortable clothing and shoes.

Terry Hackney, executive director at the Blue Mountain Chapter of the Red Cross said, "The first thing you can do is get a copy of our booklet, Disaster Preparation by Seniors For Seniors. That’s a good beginning." According to Hackney, take three main steps in preparing for emergencies: Have an emergency kit, plan and be informed.

Emergency planning specifically for seniors is not that different from others, Hackney said. "Our past experience, with the windstorm, we found that seniors can become isolated very quickly, if you don’t have your own transportation. If you lose your heat, have plenty of blankets and warm clothing. Have a radio with a hand crank on it. Some even have a flashlight on one end. Or a weather radio, be informed about what’s going on. They should also have a list of people they can call to stay in touch with loved ones. I hesitate to tell people to have cell phones because cell service can go out just like the land lines."

Those sentiments are echoed by Patty Foster-Choisser, Meals on Wheels Coordinator and Emergency Planner for the Center at The Park, "We have a proactive plan, for emergencies, especially pandemic flu. We must not just wait and see." She said having information and a plan will help relieve the stress of being afraid. To help seniors be prepared, the Meals on Wheels program delivers two emergency meals to be stored. If the electricity is out, they have emergency military rations, that don’t require refrigeration.

There are a variety of organizations that can provide some help, everything from home delivered meals to help with chores. Call and ask for information, find out what criteria the organization has and if you qualify.

At Seniors Helping Seniors, owner Duane Cinnamon said, "We have a plan in place, if we have a senior citizen that needs something. If there’s snow or ice and our care provider can’t get there, I will do it myself. I’ve got a four-wheel drive truck and chains. I will get there if they need something."

Harvey Crowder, administrator at the Walla Walla County Health Department agreed with Hackney and added, "Have an emergency preparedness kit and be sure to have a two week supply of extra medication in it. You need to have water and a three day supply of food. Make sure you know where your medical records are and how to get a hold of your doctor. Have a family plan, make sure someone else also knows where to find it. Then there’s my usual advice: be current on all your immunizations, including your annual influenza immunization."

Director of Walla Walla County Emergency Management Gay Ernst added, "For the seniors that are on their own at home, their connection with neighbors is crucial." She said emergency supplies and a source of heat are also important. "You need food, warmth and a hand cranked or battery operated radio. It’s really all the standard stuff everyone should do, but for seniors it’s a little more critical to have someone watching out for them," Ernst said. She also suggested that if you have to go out, be sure to have proper footwear.

With some advance planning you can stay safe and take fewer chances. According to Volunteer Chore Program Manager Robin Dowsett, that planning ahead helps if you want to volunteer to help others, as well. "How winter affects our organization, our biggest problem is that people realize they want to help and it takes awhile to do background checks. We can’t turn on a dime. I wish I had an office full of volunteers all ready to go." So if you’re thinking about helping out in the winter you can get started now. "When you’re inspired to volunteer, call that day before you lose the inspiration."

It’s important to be balanced and not live in a constant state of panic, but giving some thought to what you would need or how you can assist in an emergency will help in a pinch.

Karlene Ponti can be reached by calling 509-526-8324 or by e-mail at karleneponti@wwub.com.

Helpful Contacts

The Center at The Park, 509-527-3775

Red Cross, 509-525-7380

Seniors Helping Seniors, 509-876-2672

Volunteer Chore, 509-525-0572

Walla Walla County Health Department, 509-524-2650

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