With hurricane season already underway, many Americans are bracing for what the National Weather Service (NWS) predicts will be one of the most active seasons on recent record. Running from the end of May through the end of November, the average season generates 12 named storms, with half of them developing into hurricanes and three becoming major hurricanes. The most recent forecasts, however, expect the 2020 hurricane season to experience up to 19 named storms and as many as six major hurricanes with winds of 111 mph or higher.
Preparing for a hurricane is difficult enough, but it can be an even greater challenge when you have to take the needs of an aging loved one into account. Whether they’re living with you or still on their own, they often need a great deal of support to make all the necessary preparations for the season. With that in mind, it’s important to make a hurricane preparedness checklist that takes the needs of seniors into account.
What To Do Before a Hurricane
It’s important to think about how you and your aging loved ones will respond to a hurricane before a storm is actually bearing down on your community. While today’s weather forecasters can track hurricanes long before they make landfall, the window for making decisions is often narrower than people realize. Without a plan in place, you may end up wasting valuable time trying to decide where to take shelter and what supplies you need to procure. That’s why government agencies like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend taking precautionary steps at the start of every hurricane season.
Check Their Supplies
Gathering supplies ahead of hurricane season is one of the best precautionary measures you can take to help seniors. It eliminates the need to rush out for emergency items in the days before a storm hits, which is precisely when stores are likely to experience shortages. In addition to staples like food, water, first-aid, and personal hygiene items, you should also make sure to obtain whatever medical supplies your aging loved ones need. This could include prescriptions or vital medical equipment that may not be readily available during the storm and its immediate aftermath. Since your aging family members may need to evacuate at some point, you should also make a list of medical items they may need to take with them when they go.
Power outages occur frequently during a hurricane, so it’s important to have plenty of batteries on hand for things like flashlights and radios. Portable cell phone batteries, which can be charged prior to the storm, are another helpful item to have available. If your aging loved one still drives a car, have it checked for mechanical issues and fill the gas tank well before the storm arrives. Finally, if they have any pets, be sure there’s extra food (and litter) available for them.
Prepare Their Home
For seniors who still live on their own, be sure to do a thorough assessment of their home and the surrounding property. If they have hurricane shutters installed to protect their windows, make sure the shutters are easily accessible so they can be put in place quickly. You can have shutters or hurricane-grade glass installed well ahead of hurricane season if they don’t have them already. Alternatively, you could size the windows for plywood and purchase everything you’ll need to board them up when the storm arrives.
Loose shingles and roof tiles should also be repaired, as they could tear away during the hurricane and inflict further damage. Cut back any tree limbs that could potentially fall onto the house. When a storm is on its way, be sure to clear the surrounding property of any debris that could be turned into a projectile by high-speed winds.
Locate Important Documents
Conditions can deteriorate rapidly during a hurricane. Strengthening winds and storm surge waters can easily catch people off guard if they’re not prepared for the worst. One step people often forget to take is locating and storing vital documents in a safe place. This could include medical records, financial statements, wills, property titles, passports, and other forms of identification.
These important records should either be stored somewhere where they will be protected from any property damage (like a waterproof safe) or in an easily transportable container that seniors can take with them if they need to evacuate their homes quickly and seek shelter. The last thing you want is for your loved ones to put themselves at risk because they’re trying to locate an insurance document in the middle of a hurricane.
The Difference Between a Hurricane Warning & a Hurricane Watch
The NWS issues two kinds of alerts related to hurricanes. While they sound very similar, these alerts actually refer to very different conditions.
A hurricane watch is issued when hurricane conditions are possible in a given area. These alerts typically go into effect 48 hours before tropical storm winds (sustained winds of 39 to 74 mph) are expected to begin. While a hurricane watch doesn’t necessarily mean that hurricane-force winds will impact the area, it gives people the time to prepare for that possibility.
This alert is much more serious than a hurricane watch because it’s issued when hurricane-force winds (75 mph or greater) are expected in a particular area. Since these alerts are based on more accurate forecasting, they are typically issued only 36 hours before tropical storm winds arrive. When the NWS issues a hurricane warning, the area will almost certainly be impacted by the storm in some way.
If local authorities give the order to evacuate, don’t second-guess the decision. Identify where hurricane shelters are located in your area and find out what services and accommodations they offer. Some shelters, for instance, may allow you to bring pets or provide specialized care for seniors. Familiarize yourself with multiple routes to reach local shelters; some streets may be flooded when the time comes to evacuate.
Special Needs Shelters
For many seniors, riding out the hurricane at home or evacuating at the last moment isn’t a realistic option. They may have special health needs that require ongoing attention during the storm. Many organizations operate special needs shelters that provide elderly care during emergencies. Arranging for a stay in these shelters requires a bit more preparation, as they often involve a pre-registration and evaluation process to determine whether or not applicants meet the established criteria.
Your state emergency management offices can provide details on special needs shelters in your community (such as this index for the State of Florida), but you will often need information from a doctor or other healthcare professional to complete the application. Space in these shelters is limited, so they typically prioritize applicants based on need. Even if your aging loved one secures a spot in one of these shelters, you will likely need to arrange for transportation, bring any required medical supplies, and inform the medical staff (often volunteers) about your loved one’s condition and care needs.
Hurricane Preparedness Checklist
What to Do Before the Hurricane
- Listen for National Weather Service updates.
- Gather disaster supplies (restocking/replacing if needed).
- Clear property of debris.
- Close and secure doors and windows (preferably with hurricane shutters or plywood).
- Fill your car’s gas tank.
- Locate shelters for your aging loved one and create an evacuation plan.
List of Supplies to Have for a Hurricane
- 3 day supply of water (1 gallon per person per day).
- 3 day supply of non-perishable and easily prepared food.
- First aid kit.
- Flashlight, radio, and extra batteries.
- 1 week supply of all medications and medical items.
- Sanitary and personal hygiene items.
- Family and emergency contact information.
- Extra clothing.
- Copies of all personal documents (personal identification, financial statements, medical records, insurance policies, etc.).
Homethrive is Here to Help You Prepare
Preparing for a hurricane is stressful enough, but it can be an even bigger challenge when you have to consider the needs of your aging loved ones. They may be resistant to the idea of evacuating their home or be unwilling to admit that they need help to prepare for an oncoming storm.
Homethrive can help you manage these difficult challenges by providing the tools, strategies, and guidance for better care for your older family members. Our experienced Care Guides can work closely with you to develop an emergency preparedness plan that takes their needs into consideration without compromising their safety.