Keeping Seniors Safe in Their Own Homes: Disaster Preparedness
Disaster can strike suddenly and without warning. It can force an elderly person to hurriedly evacuate the familiar surroundings of his neighborhood or confine an elder to his home for days, if not weeks. Home health nurses must participate in disaster planning to support older people during these times. The best way to protect at-risk elderly adults is to plan proactively, anticipating situations before they happen and making plans to deal with whatever happens.
Disaster can strike suddenly and without warning. It can force an elderly person to hurriedly evacuate the familiar surroundings of his neighborhood or confine an elder to his home in almost total isolation for days, if not weeks.
Disasters are sudden calamitous events, causing widespread damage, loss or destruction. resources must be rapidly mobilized, above and beyond the ability of the affected community. Disasters are broadly classified as either natural or man-made. natural disasters are ecological disruptions such as floods, fires, tornadoes, hurricanes, landslides, and earthquakes. Floods are among the most common natural disasters in the world. Flooding displaces populations, and causes drowning deaths, contaminated drinking water, sanitation problems from overflowing sewage systems, waterborne illness, and substantial economic loss. Fires can gut entire communities with a widespread swath of destruction. In an average year, 800 tornadoes cause 80 fatalities and over 1,500 injuries across the U.S. hurricanes claim hundreds of lives annually and result in billions of dollars of damage. Earthquakes strike suddenly, without warning, and they can occur at any time. Almost every state has experienced earthquakes, though certain areas of the U.S. are more prone to seismic events than others. Examples of man-made disasters are war, bomb blasts, chemical leaks, and acts of terrorism. biological, nuclear, and chemical terrorism can adversely affect entire populations. Both types of disasters disrupt food, water, utility, and transportation systems, and further stress the vulnerable.
Disaster / Emergency management involves preparing for a disaster before it happens, disaster response, and rebuilding the infrastructure after the disaster has occurred. In the U.S., the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the American Red Cross, and state and local Departments of Health routinely respond to emergencies and disasters. An effective disaster response prevents epidemics and spread of disease, protects against environmental hazards, works to prevent injuries, facilitates accessibility of health services, and assists communities in recovery.
During a disaster like hurricane Katrina and its sequelae, older adults are particularly vulnerable. they often have special needs, due to chronic conditions and the physiological changes of aging. At the same time, older people are less likely to seek help than younger people during disasters and may not get as much assistance as younger individuals. Home health nurses must participate in disaster planning to support older people during these hazardous times. The best way to protect at-risk elderly adults is to plan proactively, anticipating situations before they happen and making plans to deal with whatever happens.
The home health nurse can use these basic steps to help vulnerable elders prepare for disaster. An effective disaster plan should include two pivotal strategies - a stay at home plan and an evacuation plan:
1). Create an emergency network of family, friends, neighbors, healthcare professionals, clergy, and others who can help you during a disaster.
2). Develop a map of local resources (e.g., emergency shelters, dialysis centers).
3). Stock your home with emergency supplies. Keep enough supplies in your home to meet your needs for at least three days. include:
- A 3- to 5-day supply of water (about 5 gallons for each person).
- A 3- to 5-day supply of food that will not spoil.
- A first-aid kit.
- A battery-powered radio, extra batteries, and flashlights.
- Sanitation and water-purifying supplies, such as chlorine bleach.
4). Assemble a disaster supplies kit, so that in the event of a disaster you will be prepared. the emergency kit should contain items you may need in an evacuation. Store these supplies in sturdy, easy-to-carry containers, such as a backpack. include:
- A first-aid kit.
- A change of clothing/ footwear, sleeping bag, or extra blankets.
- Prescription medications.
- An emergency information packet that includes basic medical information.
- Disposable cleaning supplies ('baby wipes').
- Personal hygiene supplies (soap, toothpaste, depends, etc.)
- An extra set of car keys, credit card, cash, or traveler's check.
- An extra pair of eye glasses.
5). Utilities - locate the main electric fuse box, water service main, and natural gas main. learn how and when to turn these off.
6). Buy a fire extinguisher and make sure you know how to use it.
7). Do not forget to make arrangements for pets and service animals.
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Your family disaster plan (PDF)Last edit by Joe V on Sep 10, '12
VickyRN is a certified nurse educator (NLN) and certified gerontology nurse (ANCC). Her research interests include: the special health and social needs of the vulnerable older adult population; registered nurse staffing and resident outcomes in intermediate care nursing facilities; and, innovations in avoiding institutionalization of frail elderly clients by providing long-term care services and supports in the community. She is faculty in a large baccalaureate nursing program in North Carolina.
Joined: Mar '01; Posts: 12,046; Likes: 6,492
Nurse Educator; from US
16 year(s) of experience in Gerontological, cardiac, med-surg, peds