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By Mary Beth Clark

Natural disasters are dangerous no matter who is involved, but they are especially dangerous for seniors. Whether it is due to chronic illness, mobility issues, vision or hearing impairments, and many other problems that are common in the senior population, they are at a greater risk of being affected when disaster strikes. Here are a few statistics to put this into perspective:

Adults 75 and older made up 50% of the victims of Hurricane Katrina.

When a heatwave hit Chicago in 1995, adults 65 and older made up 2/3rds of the 465 fatalities.

People 85 and older are more than 4 times more likely to die of a wildfire than the rest of the population.

A 2005 Harris poll stated that 13 million people who are 50 and older would need assistance to leave their homes if a natural disaster occurred. 50% of those people also stated that they would need help from someone outside of their household if a natural disaster occurred.

Depending on what area of the country you live in you are more likely to encounter certain types of natural disasters than others. If you live around the southeast you may need to be more prepared for hurricanes and flooding. If you live in California you need to be prepared for wildfires and earthquakes. If you live in the midwest you should be prepared for wildfire, earthquakes, and tornadoes. The goal of this blog is to help you make a plan and stay informed on how planning for the worst can save your life.

Have a Support System

The first step to being prepared for an emergency as a senior is having a support system of people that you know can help if there is an emergency. This support system can be professional caregivers, family members, friends, or neighbors who are close by and can drop by to do a wellness check. In case of medical or community emergencies, it is important to compile a list of family and friends with their names and phone numbers. Print this list out and place it next to your phone. It is also helpful to print out two additional copies, one to carry around with you, the second to laminate and include in your emergency supply kit. Make a plan for who you would call if you needed a ride if you are unable to transport yourself in an emergency. Make sure that you communicate with that person to let them know that you will be depending on them to help in the situation. Have a backup plan and another person who can help you get transportation if needed because, during an emergency, you never know if the first option may not be able to reach you due to uncontrollable circumstances.

Know What Local Assistance is Available in Your Area

Part of a support system is also knowing the local senior services and government aid that may be available in your area. It is important to keep in mind that after a disaster impacts a community it can sometimes take first responders and people involved in these outreach programs a little while to get to those who need assistance. It is so important to have a good emergency plan that you can survive on your own for at least a day or two in case assistance cannot reach you immediately. Assistive programs will differ depending on where you live but here is a list of programs that are there to help communities during a crisis:


FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) states on their website that their sole purpose is to assist citizens before, during, and after disaster strikes. FEMA is a government agency, thus they have a lot of red tape to get through, so it may take them a little longer to get to your community to help during an emergency. When they do arrive, FEMA can be one of the most helpful programs to help seniors with anything they need after crises, whether it be transportation, food, medical assistance, or shelter. 


Local first responders such as police, firefighters, and EMT’s are usually the first people out helping a community when conditions are safe after a disaster. If it is possible, do not hesitate to call 911 if you are in danger after a crisis hits your community. 


National Guard, this branch of the military is carefully trained to help protect American citizens when disaster strikes their communities. They are tactically trained to assist communities by implementing life-saving action plans after a disaster. The National Guard is the first branch of the military to respond during emergency and crisis situations. 


Red Cross helps with emergencies such as home fires all the way to large natural disasters. The American Red Cross is an organization that provides emergency assistance in communities and helps seniors prepare, escape, and survive natural disasters. The majority of first responders that work with the American Red Cross are volunteers. They do whatever they can to make sure that those in need have clean water, shelter, and food during a crisis.  


If you are someone that needs medical or transportation assistance in an emergency, think about signing up for SMART911, Code Red, or check with local first responders to see if they have a registry of names of seniors and other people in the community who may need assistance during community emergencies.


Making Your Plan and Emergency Kit

The next step to being prepared for a disaster is making sure you have all the supplies on hand that you would need to survive on your own until help arrives. First, we will go over the basic needs that all emergency kits need and then we will go over a more personalized checklist for seniors.

Every emergency kit needs: 

Water – a gallon a day for each person 

Food – pre-prepared like canned or freeze-dried in case you have no way to cook 

Flashlight – in case of loss of power 

First-Aid Kit – make sure this kit is up-to-date and fully equipped

Radio – It is important to have a way to get information and communicate if there is a loss of power and the internet. Having a HAM radio, NOAA weather radio, or hand-crank radio is the best way to be prepared. 

Blankets and pillows 

Durable shoes 

Change of clothes 

Rain jacket 



Plastic sheet/ Tarp

Duct tape

Medical mask

Toilet paper

Trash bags and plastic bags

Whistle – To signal for help


Local maps 

File with copies of all important documentation – Medical history, RX list, insurance, contact list, passports, will/deeds,  emergency plan, etc.

Notebook and writing utensil

Extra batteries 

Note: It is recommended that all of these supplies should have enough to last 3-4 days.

As a senior, you may have more specific items you may need to add to your kit as well:

Medications – If possible, include an extra week’s supply of medication in your emergency supply kit. Talk to your doctor and pharmacist and explain that you are putting together an emergency supply kit in order to get this. Always make sure these medications stay up to date. 

Batteries for hearing aids 

Spare oxygen tank 

Accessories for monitoring blood sugar and blood pressure 

Spare glasses

Spare dentures


You can never prepare for everything, but making a plan in case the worst happens may just save your life, especially as a senior. This blog post is not meant to cause you fear or anxiety, it is simply a fact of life that sometimes these things happen and we want to make sure that you are prepared if it does. Communities are better and wiser with their seniors there to guide them, make sure you are setting an example in your community by preparing now.


Dwell at Home is bringing in-home senior care into the palm of your hand with a mobile application that values convenience, personalized mentorship, and trust.  You can download the app in the Apple App store today by clicking here!

Dwell at Home is not a licensed medical professional and all information provided is provided “as is” with no warranties. You should consult a licensed physician for any questions related to your health.  Dwell at Home makes no guarantee about any application or third-party website mentioned in any article on this website