September is Disaster Preparedness Month, and with wildfires impacting many communities in San Diego County, it’s a good time to consider the importance of important helping seniors to prepare and stay safe when a disaster hits. Ambulation limitations, weakness, serious medical conditions and cognitive decline all increase the likelihood that a senior could succumb to the most devastating effects of a fire if they’re not prepared. That’s why advanced planning and support are so important. 

Before a fire impacts your community, take some time to make a plan, discuss important information and ensure that everyone in your aging loved one’s circle of support knows how to help keep them safe. Salus offers these tips to help. 

Red Cross Ready San Diego Seniors

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San Diego seniors are Red Cross Ready when they have a clear understanding of the natural disasters that are more likely to impact their community. In many of our communities, that risk is currently wildfires. Stay informed by watching your local news programs, checking the weather in your area, and keeping an eye on the San Diego hazard map. Spending just a few minutes a day reviewing information can help to keep your family safe. 

Preparing A Senior’s Emergency Evacuation Kit

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If your family needs to evacuate, there are some supplies that are important to have on hand for health and survival. Known as your “go bag”, an emergency preparedness kit is best prepared by creating a list of materials to pack and packing them in advance. Have your bag ready to grab at a moment’s notice. 

At minimum, the bag needs to contain 3-5 days of essential medications, water, non-perishable foods and seasonally appropriate clothing. Include a flashlight and batteries for navigating dark or smokey areas, copies of important medical and legal documents, recent digital photos of loved ones, phone numbers for family members, your homecare provider and friends,  and contact information for the medical professionals who support you. It’s also helpful to have a cellphone charger in the kit and extra batteries. 

High risk seniors are advised to pack 2-3 masks to use in case you are evacuating to a busy shelter or another populated area. This can help to protect you from COVID-19 if social distancing isn’t possible. 

If your loved one has concerns related to bladder or bowel control, sanitary supplies will reduce the risk of embarrassment and discomfort. If they regularly use any medications that are injected, include a few days supply of syringes in the kit. While you might have the opportunity to restock these items at the store or pharmacy, locations across San Diego will likely be closed or difficult to travel to until you’re settled in a safer place.  

Your Aging Loved One’s Evacuation Plan

Disasters bring stress, uncertainty and confusion, so it’s important to make your plan ahead of the disaster to reduce negative emotions and dangerous mistakes. Each room in your home needs two exits in case one can’t be used because of smoke or fire. No matter how many exits a room has, they’re useless if an elderly loved one isn’t physically or cognitively able to reach and use them and doesn’t have support. If your loved one has physical or cognitive limitations, have a plan for who will support them in getting outside of the home. A family member, a trusted neighbor or your loved one’s professional San Diego caregiver are all good options. 

Once everyone is safely outside of the home, it’s important to know where the meeting place is and have developed a plan for where you’ll go to evacuate. Review the plan on a regular basis with your family and any care providers who will support your aging loved one. It’s also a good idea to have a backup option in case someone isn’t available or faces obstacles in reaching your loved one. Additionally,  have a plan for who will make contact with other family members once everyone is out of the home and safe. 

As fires continue to threaten San Diego County, Salus reminds you to plan appropriately. Stay safe, and ensure that your aging loved ones are safe too. Remember these few important steps: Be Red Cross Ready, Have a Plan, Pack A Bag and Evacuate Safely. Our San Diego caregivers are ready to assist our home care, home health and hospice care patients and their family members. All are trained to follow disaster preparedness guidelines set by the American Red Cross and have the full support of our office staff in the event of an emergency. 

For more information on ways to keep your family safe in the event of a wildfire and important Disaster Preparedness tips, check out https://www.readysandiego.org/.