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It's Hurricane Season, and are you Prepared?

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This year Colorado State University hurricane researchers have warned the Atlantic hurricane season will be an active one that is projected to produce nineteen named storms, nine hurricanes, and four major hurricanes. The Center for Environmental Monitoring & Analysis has data from 1980 to 2020 detailing the frequency of tropical systems that affect Delaware. In 2020, six tropical systems affected the First State. Between 2016 and 2020, an average of five tropical systems affected Delaware each year (CEMA, n.d.). Delaware is certainly no stranger to the impact of hurricanes. Just last year, Wilmington saw historic flooding from the remnants of Hurricane Ida, requiring over 200 water rescues.

By 2040, one in five Americans will be 65 years or older (AARP, 2018). Research studies have demonstrated that older adults are the least prepared for disasters, with two-thirds of older adults having no emergency preparedness plan (ARC & AAN, 2020). Advanced age in and of itself does not make a person vulnerable. However, we are living longer and subsequently living with more chronic health conditions. According to the CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics, more than fifty percent of older adults aged 65 and older have two or more co-occurring chronic conditions (2015). With advanced age, some older adults are at greater risk for physical and mental health conditions, sensory impairments, may be socially isolated, and may experience cognitive changes. This can make older adults particularly vulnerable to physiological and psychological stresses during natural disasters. A report from the American Red Cross and the American Academy of Nursing further discusses seven factors that increase vulnerability for older adults to disasters. These seven factors—psychological and social factors, cognitive impairments, chronic conditions, physical impairments, sensory impairments, finances and accessibility and equity—pose barriers and ultimately increase an older adult’s risk during and after natural disasters (ARC & ANN, 2020).

Making a plan, making a kit, and staying informed are the three essential preparedness steps to maximize your safety and wellbeing during a natural disaster or in any emergency. Detailed information can be found on PrepareDE.org, however, here are some basic tips:

Make a Plan – Help reduce your risk!

A 2014 national survey of older adults found that two thirds of the sample had no emergency plan, had never participated in any disaster preparedness educational program, and were not aware of the availability of relevant resources (Al-Rousan, Rubenstein & Wallace, 2014). About fifteen percent of the sample used electricity-dependent medical devices (Al-Rousan, Rubenstein & Wallace, 2014). Power interruptions due to hurricanes could pose adverse health effects for these individuals. Furthermore, the interruption to the timely provision of routine medical care is recognized as a likely contributor to the exacerbation of medical conditions during natural disasters, especially in the immediate months following major natural disasters (ARC & ANN, 2020). Here are a few tips to reduce your risk:

Have a list of important phone numbers and keep it by your phone. Keep a backup in a watertight container in your emergency kit.

Have family members check in on a regular basis – schedule it! (See Preparedness Buddy in the resources) If this isn’t possible, check if your community has a senior roll call program.

Know the location and availability of more than one nearby facility that provide services you may need, like dialysis. 

Wear a medical alert bracelet and/or carry a card with relevant information that people may need to help you (like what medications you take and how to communicate with you). This will also help if your prescriptions are damaged or destroyed during a disaster.

Know your evacuation routes! You can find more information here: https://deldot.maps.arcgis.com/apps/webappviewer/index.html?id=dfa83d46ba27493bbebb642ff0733c40

Make a kit

The national survey of older adults by Al-Rousan, Rubenstein and Wallace also found that more than one third of the survey responders did not have a basic supply of food, water, or medical supplies in case an emergency was to arise (2014).

Make an emergency kit with supplies in case you need to leave your home. Make sure you have copies of your insurance and Medicare cards. Include extra eyeglasses, hearing aids, and batteries.

Include the contact information for your medical providers in a watertight container in your kit.   

Keep your kitchen stocked with non-perishable food and water. You should have 1 gallon of water per person per day. You should have enough food for 2000 calories per person per day. 

Have a supply of prescriptions and other medications in case you can’t leave the house for a few days. Make sure you have nonprescription drugs, like fever relievers, on hand.

Be prepared for power outages by keeping electronic devices charged, having flashlights, and backup batteries. If you require specialized medical equipment, consider having an emergency generator.

Stay informed – Social isolation may prevent some older adults from receiving warning signals and notifications. Make sure you can receive emergency alerts and have a way to monitor the weather. Don’t just rely on one source- make sure you have multiple ways to stay informed! Check in with your neighbors to ensure they are also staying informed. You can also:

Sign up for the Delaware Emergency Notification System (DENS). DENS is a FREE way to receive alerts that affect your area. You can get alerts sent as voice messages to your home phone and your cell phone, in addition to receiving text alerts on your cellphone and your email.  More information is available here: https://dema.delaware.gov/onlineServices/index.shtml?dc=dens

Purchase a NOAA Weather Radio. NOAA Weather Radio All Hazards network continuously broadcasts weather information directly from the National Weather Service office nearest to you, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. In addition to weather information, they broadcast information about other hazards like chemical releases and 911 outages, as well. More information can be found here: https://www.weather.gov/nwr&ln_desc=NOAA+Weather+Radio/

Monitor the current weather and future forecasts through the National Weather Service Philadelphia/Mt. Holly website https://www.weather.gov/phi/

Monitor road conditions through the DelDOT App https://deldot.gov/mobile/ or their website https://deldot.gov  

Get additional weather information and real time data from the Delaware Environmental Observing System (DEOS): http://deos.udel.edu/

 

There’s no time like the present to get prepared! 

References & Resources

AARP. By 2040, one in five Americans will be over age 65. (2018). Retrieved 05.10.2020 from       

   https://bit.ly/3vXb47k

Al-Rousan, T. M., L. M. Rubenstein, and R. B. Wallace, “Preparedness for Natural Disasters

   Among Older U.S. Adults: A Nationwide Survey,” American Journal of Public Health, Vol.

   104, No. 3, 2014, pp. 506–511.

American Red Cross (ARC) & American Academy of Nursing (AAN). (2020).  Closing the gaps:

   Advancing disaster preparedness, response, and recovery for older adults. Washington, D.C.  

Center for Disease Control and Prevention National Center for Health Statistics. Percent of U.S. adults 55 and over with chronic conditions. (2015). Retrieved 05.10.2022 from

   https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/health_policy/adult_chronic_conditions.htm

Center for Environmental Monitoring & Analysis (CEMA). (n.d.). Retrieved 05.10.2022, from

    https://cema.udel.edu

Delaware Climate Office  https://climate.udel.edu/delaware-severe-weather/

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) www.noaa.gov

NOAA National Hurricane Preparedness www.noaa.gov/hurricane-prep

Preparedness Buddy: https://www.dhss.delaware.gov/dhss/dph/php/preparednessbuddy.html

Debra Young, Disability & Preparedness Specialist, Association of State and Territorial Health Officials (ASTHO) & Wanderly, embedded within Delaware Department of Health and Social Services, Division of Public Health, Office of Preparedness

Paige Fitzgerald , Deputy Director, Delaware Emergency Management Agency (DEMA)

 

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