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by Olivia Burns, HHS Aging Texas Well Coordinator

Disasters and emergencies can occur unexpectedly, and it can be difficult to know in the moment who to contact for help or what you might need. These types of events can affect all of us. However, older adults are more likely to be more severely impacted than younger adults.

Analysis of casualties after Hurricanes Katrina and Sandy revealed that half of the deaths were among people age 65 and older. COVID-19 has also disproportionately impacted older adults, who are at higher risk for contracting the virus. Efforts to prevent the spread of the virus and protect people most at risk resulted in many older adults experiencing disruptions accessing critical health care and support services .

Being prepared for emergency situations can help you better navigate these types of events when and if they occur. The following recommendations can help you prepare for an emergency or disaster situation:

• Have a plan: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend creating a plan for what to do during an emergency. Plans include identifying where to go if you need to evacuate and how you will get there, designating someone to check on you during the emergency, and learning what procedures your community has in place for responding to emergencies. If you or a loved one receive services like in-home health care or meal delivery services, connect with the service provider to determine if any disruptions are expected. The complete care plan can help you identify all the information related to your family’s care needs.

• Have an emergency supply kit: Its recommended to have at minimum a three-day supply of water, food, prescription medications and devices, medical and first aid supplies, warm clothes, emergency (space) blankets, and child and pet supplies, if needed. In the event of a power outage, include flashlights, battery-powered lanterns and extra batteries. Also have available copies of important paperwork, such as health insurance cards, birth certificates, IDs and any important legal documents.

• Register for emergency alerts and assistance: Local, state and federal agencies use a variety of methods to notify the public about emergencies, including through widespread messages sent to phones. There are also other services, such as the FEMA App, Smart911 or CodeRED, where you can register for alerts. Texas also has a statewide registry where people who have special needs, including mobility and medical needs, can register and provide information to help first responders better assist them during an emergency.

For information about programs and services for older adults, visit the HHS Age Well Live Well webpage or call 2-1-1.

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