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“Preparing Together” is a project that AARP VI expects will make a difference in the lives of the elderly and disabled. The project began as collaboration between the Salvation Army and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). It focuses on creating a one-on-one partnership between an able-bodied volunteer and an elderly or disabled person so that an emergency episode could be mitigated or better managed.

Under the program volunteers meet with their partner to conduct an assessment of their readiness to respond to an emergency event. An assessment tool, also known as the “Planning Tool for Preparedness,” developed by the New York Office of the Salvation Army, is used to document critical information that may include: doctors’ names, medications, required medical equipment, how to contact off-island family members, the name and location of the shelter best prepared to handle the person’s medical needs, the best route to take to get to this shelter, the name and phone numbers for the person or agency that will provide transportation, what to do with pets, and even a checklist of items to be taken to the shelter.

Once the assessment is completed it is placed in an obvious spot in the home of the partner in need of assistance. The document comes with a magnet that makes it perfect for placement on the refrigerator door allowing it to become extremely helpful if a medical emergency occurs and ambulance responders need quick access to reliable medical information.

The partners continue to meet on a regular basis as part of their agreement to get to know each other better and, if necessary update their emergency plan. By nurturing the friendship and trust between the two, the elderly or disabled person can become confident that their partner is someone they can trust and count on in a crisis.

AARP State Director Denyce Singleton indicates that AARP VI has a long tradition of finding ways to serve the most vulnerable populations in the VI and expects this “Preparing Together” project to truly make a difference. “We recognize that this is a huge project”, states Singleton, “Churches, businesses, social and civic organizations, as well as government agencies will all have to join in the effort to make this successful. But, in the end, the advance planning will be well worth the outcome and could possibly save a significant number of VI lives.”

Lauri Christian, the Virgin Islands Voluntary Organizations Active In Disasters (VOAD) Chairwoman agrees with Singleton but adds, “As the 2010 Hurricane Season approaches, it’s only natural that Virgin Islanders’ thoughts turn to hurricane preparedness. However, as we have seen recently with Haiti, hurricanes shouldn’t be the only disasters that Virgin Islanders prepare for annually. Instead there should be equal consideration throughout the year for other types of natural and non-natural disasters."

"The VI’s geographical location makes it just as likely to for us to fall prey to other disasters like earthquakes, tsunamis, flash floods, or natural fires. And there are other disasters like industrial accidents, plane crashes or even terrorism to be considered. The key is planning,” concluded Christian. “The Preparing Together project is a great way to help our most “at-risk” population to get ready for any of these events.”

If you would like further information or have questions about this project, please do not hesitate to contact the AARP VI State Office at (340) 713-2002.

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