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Red Cross Research Shows Older Adults More Vulnerable in Disasters

Special to Washington County News and Holmes County Times Advertiser

HOLMES AND WASHINGTON COUNTIES – According to new research from the American Red Cross Scientific Advisory Council and the American Academy of Nursing, older adults are more vulnerable and experience more casualties after a natural disaster compared to other age groups. That’s why this National Preparedness Month, the South Florida Red Cross, encourages everyone, especially older adults, to get ready for emergencies.

Being prepared for disasters is important for people of all ages. But there are several factors that make older adults more vulnerable during a natural disaster:

Older adults may have more chronic conditions and medication concerns.

They may be more dependent on assistive devices like walkers and eyeglasses, and support from caregivers.

These American Red Cross club mobiles, trailers and supply trucks are waiting for shipment across the English Channel in England on June 16, 1944, to follow the Allied invasion armies. American Red Cross field men went into France with the military units they served in England, according to official announcement. Their club equipment will follow soon. Field Directors? jeeps are lined up in the far background.

Living in social isolation can also make them more vulnerable.

“During this time, older adults are even more vulnerable due the pandemic,” says Jill Palmer, executive director for chapter. “This is why it so crucial for them to take steps not to be prepared for any type of emergency. We encourage them to assess their needs in case they need additional assistance and prepare in advance.”

PREPARE IN ADVANCE To be prepared, older adults should think about what they would do during a disaster before it occurs. Understand how your medical, physical and cognitive needs may affect your ability to respond if you had to stay in your home for two weeks or more or had to evacuate. Building a support network and identifying helpers such as family, friends, neighbors, caregivers and care providers who may be able to assist is vital. Older adults should meet with these supporters and decide how to communicate in an emergency.

Additional research findings and resources, including our new Disaster and Emergency Preparedness for Older Adults checklist and booklet, are available at redcross.org/olderadults.

DISASTERS DURING A PANDEMIC

Preparing for emergencies is a little different this year, but the three basic action steps remain the same for everyone: Build a Kit, Make a Plan and Be Informed. Assemble two kits of emergency supplies (a stay-at-home kit and an evacuation kit) and a one-month supply of prescription medication. Include personal hygiene items, cleaning and disinfectant supplies and cloth face coverings. Some supplies may be hard to get due to the pandemic, and availability may worsen in a disaster, so start gathering supplies now.

Disasters can force people to leave their homes, even in areas under stay-at-home mandates. By having an emergency plan your family can react quickly if a disaster strikes.

Ask friends or relatives outside your area if you would be able to stay with them.

Check and see if they have any COVID-19 symptoms or have people in their home at higher risk for serious illness. If they do, make other arrangements.

Check with hotels, motels and campgrounds to see if they are open and if pets are allowed.

Due to the pandemic, stay current on advice and restrictions from your state and local public health authorities as it may affect your actions, available resources and shelter facilities.

Learn first aid and CPR skills so you’ll know what to do until emergency help arrives.

Download the free Red Cross Emergency App for weather alerts and information on what to do before, during and after disasters.

Additional resources for preparing during the COVID-19 pandemic are available at redcross.org/coronavirus. 

VOLUNTEERS NEEDED Severe weather during a pandemic can have an even greater impact on our communities and we serve them. As you prepare for disasters, the Red Cross is preparing too. We encourage people to join us by volunteering in their local community. A variety of positions are available including disaster shelter and health supervisors. Find out more at redcross.org/volunteertoday.

About the American Red Cross:

The American Red Cross shelters, feeds and provides emotional support to victims of disasters; supplies about 40 percent of the nation's blood; teaches skills that save lives; provides international humanitarian aid; and supports military members and their families. The Red Cross is a not-for-profit organization that depends on volunteers and the generosity of the American public to perform its mission. For more information, please visit redcross.org/southflorida or visit us on Facebook or Twitter at @SFLRedCross.