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May 23, 2019
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Natural disaster threats call for preparedness plan to protect seniors

By: Julie Ann Soukoulis
October 12, 2018

Sonoma County, considered a high fire environment, confirmed last October that wildfire is a true real threat. “Since it is not a question of “if” wildfires will occur but “when” they will occur, the likelihood of human life and property loss is great and growing. Our ability to live more safely in this fire environment greatly depends upon our use of “pre-fire activities.” Pre-fire activities are actions taken before a wildfire occurs which improves the survivability of people and homes,” says Fire Safe Sonoma.

 Whether it's hurricanes, tornados, wildfires or floods, helping older adults—among the most vulnerable populations—should be a priority. 

 That's why the Home Instead Senior Care network, the international caregiving company with more than 900 locations in 15 countries, has issued a disaster safety preparation checklist to help prepare your senior parent for the possibility of natural disasters. You can download this on our website www.homeinstead.com/sonoma or call and ask us to mail you a copy at 586-1516

We know that a wildfire or any other natural disaster emergency can leave many families unprepared to help a senior react quickly to ensure their safety. For this reason, I wanted to be sure everyone is aware of what to do to help an older loved one, neighbor or friend.

That's why the sooner the better for families to talk with their senior loved ones and begin preparing in advance for any kind of emergency that could threaten their health or safety. Consider this checklist as you help your older adult get ready:

Tune in. Contact the local emergency management office to learn about the most likely natural disasters to strike your area. Stay abreast of what's going on through your local radio or television.

Take stock. Decide what your senior can or can't do in the event of a natural disaster. Make a list of what would be needed if a disaster occurred. For example, if your loved one is wheelchair-bound, determine an evacuation strategy ahead of time. Prepare for whatever disaster could hit the area.

To go or to stay? When deciding to evacuate, older adults should go sooner rather than later. By waiting too long, they may be unable to leave if they require assistance.

Make a plan. Schedule a family meeting to develop a plan of action. Include in your plan key people—such as neighbors, friends, relatives and professional caregivers—who could help.

More than one way out. Seniors should develop at least two escape routes: one to evacuate their home and one to evacuate their community. The local emergency management office can tell you escape routes out of the community.

Meet up. Designate a place to meet relatives or key support network people outside the house, as well as a second location outside the neighborhood, such as a school or church. Practice the plan twice a year.

Get up and "Go Kit." Have an easy-to-carry backpack including three days of non-perishable food and water with an additional four days of food and water readily accessible at home. Have at least one gallon of bottled water per person per day. Refresh and replace your supplies at least twice a year. And don't forget the blanket and paper products such as toilet paper.

Pack extras and copies. Have at least a one-month supply of medication on hand at all times. Make ready other important documents in a waterproof protector including copies of prescriptions, car title registration and driver's license, insurance documents and bank account number and spare checkbook. Also take extra eyeglasses and hearing-aid batteries. Label every piece of important equipment or personal items in case they are lost.

 Your contact list. Compile a contact list and include people on a senior's support network as well as doctors and other important health-care professionals.

If you can't be there. If you're not living close by to help your loved one, enlist the help of family or friends.

For your home, the objective of defensible space is to reduce the wildfire threat to a home by changing the characteristics of the adjacent vegetation. Defensible space practices include knowing the three R’s of defensible space.

REMOVAL: This technique involves the elimination of entire plants, particularly trees and shrubs, from the site. Examples of removal are cutting down a dead tree or cutting out a flammable shrub. 

REDUCTION: The removal of plant parts, such as branches or leaves, constitute reduction. Examples of reduction are pruning dead wood from a shrub, removing low tree branches and mowing dried grass.

REPLACEMENT:  Replacement is substituting less flammable plants for more hazardous vegetation. Removal of a dense stand of flammable shrubs and planting an irrigated, well maintained flower bed is an example of replacement. 

If your home or neighborhood is threatened by wildfire, occupants may be advised to evacuate. Your Family Emergency Plan should be in place and practiced regularly by all family members before an emergency occurs! Include the following recommendations at a minimum. When in doubt - EVACUATE!

Additional Resources

Nixle alerts keeps you up-to-date with relevant information from your local public safety departments & schools. Nixle alerts should be added on your cell phone. It Saves Lives. Receive alerts on your mobile by texting your zip code to 888777.

FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency)

For more information about advance disaster preparations, download the Federal Emergency Management Agency publication "Are You Ready" at www.fema.gov/areyouready or visit their "Be Ready" campaign atwww.ready.gov.

Fire SAFE Sonoma houses resources that can be found at www.firesafesonoma.org along with the www.fire.ca.gov  site.

Be well and Be safe.

Julie Ann Soukoulis is the owner of Home Instead Senior care office in Rohnert Park, mother of two and passionate about healthy living at all ages. Having cared for her own two parents, she understands your struggles and aims, through her website,www.homeinstead.com/sonoma to educate and encourage seniors & caregivers. Have a caregiving or aging concern? She’s love to hear from you at 586-1516 anytime.