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Oklahoma State University

Severe weather requires advanced planning for older adults

Friday, April 17, 2020

Advance planning for severe weather is a must, especially for older adults. (Photo by Todd Johnson, Agricultural Communications Services)

Oklahomans are well-versed in what it takes to prepare for severe weather such as tornadoes. Advanced planning is a must to help ensure everyone’s safety. This is especially important for special populations such as older adults.

An emergency contingency plan is a great way to help reduce risk, said Gina Peek, Oklahoma State University Extension housing and consumer specialist.

“We know we don’t always get a lot of advance warning of a tornado. This is why it’s important for older adults to have an emergency plan in place,” Peek said. “Preparing ahead of a storm can help provide older adults the extra time needed to move to their safe place.”

The most complete family emergency plans address the unique needs of each person, and for older adults, that could include taking into account their strength and mobility. For guidance on how to create a family emergency plan, visit www.ready.gov.

Peek said a basic emergency kit should include enough water and food for three days, weather appropriate clothing to change into, a flashlight with extra batteries, a first aid kit and a weather radio. Do not forget to include other special items such as medications, extra glasses, assistive devices, oxygen and hearing aids and extra batteries.

“Keep copies of important documents such as medical insurance, Medicare and Medicaid cards, wills and power of attorney in a waterproof zipper bag in the emergency kit,” she said.

Since any kit much larger and heavier than a simple storm emergency bag could be difficult to move, families may consider preparing two kits – one for sheltering at home during emergencies and a smaller, lighter one that is easier to maneuver in the event the family has to take cover somewhere outside the home.

Something else to consider is the type of container to use for the emergency kits, she said.

“As you’re thinking about what items to put in an emergency kit, also consider the type of container to hold all the supplies,” Peek said. “For instance, people with arthritis may choose a case with wheels instead of a large plastic tote with handles.”

Be sure to store the emergency kit in a location with quick and easy access. Peek said storing it on a high shelf or in the back of a crowded closet is not the best option.

Finally, when it comes to seeking safety, some older adults may not have the mobility to get underground.

“Anyone worried about making it to the basement, cellar or below-ground shelter may think about picking another safe space in their home,” Peek said. “If you can’t get underground, look for another safe space on the lowest level of the house. Interior rooms such as closets or hallways work best. Avoid doors, windows and outside walls.”

MEDIA CONTACT: Trisha Gedon | Agricultural Communications Services | 405-744-3625 | trisha.gedon@okstate.edu

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