It is not hard to recall the searing images of older Americans and those with disabilities during Hurricane Katrina last summer. AARP today takes part in National Preparedness Month by arming older adults with tips and resources that will help them prepare for future disaster scenarios.
The U.S. Census Bureau estimates more than 84 million Americans are over age 50 and more than 54 million Americans have disabilities. According to a survey conducted for AARP by Harris Interactive, roughly 13 million people age 50 and older say they will need help to evacuate in a natural disaster—and about half of these individuals will require help from someone outside of their household. Further, the report found that older adults face challenges that are different from the rest of the adult population, such as needing assistance with activities of daily living, continuous health support, life support, significant nursing care, custodial care or post-operative skilled care.
AARP has joined forces with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the American Red Cross (ARC), the National Organization on Disability (NOD) and the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) to encourage older Americans and individuals with disabilities to prepare for emergencies. As part of DHS’s Ready Campaign, these organizations have created two brochures that offer older adults and disabled Americans simple preparedness steps they can adopt before emergencies occur. In addition, the NFPA today released its new Emergency Evacuation Planning Guide for People with Disabilities.
“In Louisiana during Hurricane Katrina, roughly 71 percent of the victims were older than 60 and 47 percent were over the age of 75. There is truly a need to plan and accommodate all Americans during emergencies, particularly older Americans,” said AARP’s Group Executive Officer, Christopher Hansen.
These new tools were announced by Homeland’s Security’s Under Secretary for Preparedness George Foresman at the Armed Forces Retirement Home in Washington, DC. The announcement included remarks by senior officials of AARP, ARC, NOD and NFPA, as well as an interactive presentation for older and disabled Washingtonians by local first responders.
The Ready brochures encourage all Americans to prepare an emergency supply kit, make a family emergency plan and be informed about the types of emergencies that can occur and the appropriate responses.
The new materials, written specifically for older adults and those with special needs, recommend adding medicines, medical records, glasses, hearing aids and other special medical equipment, to their basic emergency supply kits. Further, it is important that individuals develop an emergency plan tailored to their unique needs and a personal support network, which they can call upon in the event of an emergency. In addition, the pieces urge people to be aware of the types of emergencies that can happen where they live and the local plans in place in their communities.
AARP has made significant efforts to address the needs of older adults in preparing for and recovering from disasters since the massive damage caused by last year’s hurricanes. In addition to the co-branded Ready brochures announced today, AARP’s Foundation has taken important steps to address preparedness and response, including the following: