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Before the Big One: Earthquake Preparedness for Seniors

While we can’t predict or control natural disasters, it makes sense for southern California seniors to practice earthquake preparedness for this sort of emergency.

It wasn’t anywhere near the 9.2 magnitude earthquake that decimated Indonesia in 2004, or the historic 1906 quake that leveled San Francisco, but southern California residents were still shaken by the recent 6.4 temblor and its 7.1 aftershock.

Because the initial earthquake took place on the 4th of July, some people might have assumed it was a fireworks display that got out of hand. In a manner of speaking, perhaps it was: Mother Nature generated these fireworks.

The quake and its aftershock, centered approximately 150 miles northeast of Sierra Madre, left a crack in the earth that can be seen from space. Mother Nature wasn’t fooling around.


How to Keep Seniors Safer

No one retires with all aspects of their life in place without prior planning — ideally years, if not decades, before retirement.

But while people tend to focus on the financial, interpersonal and medical particulars of retirement planning, we don’t often think about emergency preparedness: what to do if there is a fire, flood, earthquake, tornado, lengthy power outage, etc.

In some parts of the country, such as the Southeast or Midwest, people may be more prepared for natural emergencies such as hurricanes or tornadoes, since they’ve experienced their share of them.

But emergencies can happen anywhere, at any time — remember when “superstorm” Sandy plunged much of New York City into darkness, and hospital patients had to be carried down flights of stairs for transport to other facilities?

This excellent Red Cross download covers disaster preparedness for seniors by seniors. After experiencing a two-week power failure due to a massive ice storm, a group of seniors in upstate New York realized that even basic preparation would have eliminated much of the hardship they endured.

Three Steps to Earthquake Preparedness

Generously wanting to help other seniors be ready for similar predicaments, a dozen Rochester residents created this helpful handbook. They recommend a trio of crucial steps:

  1. Get a kit
  2. Make a plan
  3. Be informed.

While these tips may sound simple, they could make a life-saving difference in a crisis. Their advice applies to most emergency circumstances, including earthquake preparedness.

A basic emergency kit, packed and ready, should:

  • Contain enough supplies to last at least three days.
  • Store supplies in one or more easy-to-carry containers such as a backpack or duffel bag.
  • Be on wheels, if possible.
  • Have an ID tag: name, address, phone number, email.
  • Be kept up-to-date. Review the contents at least every six months or as your needs change. Check expiration dates for medications and batteries, and transfer the stored supplies into everyday use before they expire. Replace food, water and batteries, and refresh medications and other perishable items with “first in, first out” practices.

Senior Disaster Preparedness Kit

The Red Cross recommends seniors keep the following items in an emergency evacuation kit:

  • Water: one gallon per person, per day (3-day supply for

evacuation and 2-week supply for home)

  • Non-perishable food: Canned, dried, etc. Pack a 3-day supply for evacuation and 2-week supply for home.
  • Flashlight with extra batteries and bulbs (do not use candles!) Replace batteries regularly so they are fresh when needed.
  • Radio: battery-operated.
  • First aid kit and manual
  • Medications(7-day supply)and medical items
  • Multi-purpose tool such as a Swiss Army knife
  • Manual can opener
  • Secure container for essential assistive devices: hearing aids, eyeglasses, dentures
  • Sanitation and personal hygiene items (toilet paper, plastic garbage bags)
  • Copies of personal documents (medication list and pertinent medical information, deed/lease to home, birth certificates, insurance policies)
  • Cell phone with an extra battery and charger(s)
  • Emergency contact information for family and friends
  • Cash (ATMs may not be accessible)
  • Blanket
  • Map(s) of the local area (Internet may be down)
  • Whistle to attract the attention of emergency personnel
  • Change of clothing
  • Pet and service animal supplies, including food and vaccination records
  • Extra set of keys: car, house, mailbox, etc.

The California Department of Public Health expands on the above list in greater detail.

Making A Plan

In terms of planning, seniors would be wise to take the following steps:

  • Secure your living space. Anchor heavy furniture, equipment, and life support systems, including telephones, computers and stereo equipment, and especially gas and oxygen tanks, which should be hooked to the walls with braces.
  • Label any equipment, such as wheelchairs, canes, or walkers, with the senior’s name, address and phone numbers.
  • Know the best escape routes and meeting places, and where you will rendezvous with family members in the event you need to leave the area immediately.
  • Make sure you have adequate insurance. Homeowners’ insurance doesn’t typically cover earthquake damage unless you add this coverage to your policy. Just 13 percent of California homeowners currently have earthquake insurance.
  • Decide — among out-of-area friends and family members — on one key contact person you will call in a disaster. That way, if you are unable to contact local friends/family, all of you can use this resource person to relay information.

When You’re Caught in A Quake

What should you do during an earthquake? The instinct is to run, but this is a mistake, as you can be injured by falling debris or caught up in a mass exit. Instead:

  • Drop to the floor on your hands and knees
  • Cover your head and neck with one arm
  • Crawl under a desk or other shelter if possible, and hold on!
  • If you’re in a walker or wheelchair: lock the wheels, sit down, cover your head with one arm, and hold on until the shaking stops.
  • In bed: cover your head and neck with your arms or a pillow until the shaking stops.

Most of all, emergency preparedness for seniors means having a support network. Stay informed, know where to go, and keep your kit up to date. If you never need to use it, you’ll still have the peace of mind that comes from knowing Nature isn’t likely to catch you unawares.

Further Reading:

Memory loss is life changing for all involved. At The Kensington, we provide a state-of-the-art memory care program, a higher staff-to-resident ratio than industry standards, and more advanced care services. Our promise is to love and care for your family as we do our own.

For additional resources regarding your loved one’s condition, please read on about our Memory Care, Alzheimer’s Care and Dementia Care.

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