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How Prepared Are You and Your Loved Ones When Natural Disaster Strikes?

by Karen Sorensen, CMC, NBC-HWC

Maui’s catastrophic wildfire and Hurricane Idalia’s battering of Florida and neighboring states are recent reminders that natural disasters are sudden, ruthless, and can happen anywhere. This September, as we recognize National Preparedness Month, is an ideal time to evaluate your disaster preparedness.

History has taught us that major storms are unpredictable. The best we can do for ourselves and our family members is to plan ahead for emergency. Understanding your risk based on where you live is critical when developing your emergency response. Hurricanes and nor’easters are not just a Maryland and Delaware coastal problem. The damaging effects of water and wind can be felt hundreds of miles inland. It’s important to know if you live in an evacuation zone, if your home is prone to flooding, and whether your home has any structural weaknesses.

For residents of Maryland, Pennsylvania, and Delaware, visiting Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA’s) Region 3 website or downloading the FEMA app is an excellent first step. Staying informed through the U.S. emergency alert system and wireless emergency alert is also beneficial.

Emergency Preparedness Checklist

Once you identify your risks, preparing your emergency response and supply kit are critical next steps. Will your family need to shelter in place or evacuate? Planning responses for both scenarios may be necessary. Disaster planning must consider the unique needs of children, older adults as well as family members with disabilities. Ensure your disaster plan is pet friendly, as pets and service animals are often overlooked.

  • Basic disaster supplies kit: Water and non-perishable food for several days, battery-powered radio and flashlight, first aid kit, sheeting and duct tape, moist towelettes, garbage bags, tool kit, manual can opener, maps, and cell phone with chargers are deemed essential.
  • Prescription and over-the-counter medications: Emergencies can close pharmacies temporarily. Ensure your emergency kit includes an organized supply of your prescription and over-the-counter medications and vitamins. Having a list of your medicines, including information about your diagnosis and dosage, is advised. A backup supply of oxygen is also recommended.
  • Cash and documents: Having a supply of cash or traveler’s checks is advised. Digital copies of important documents such insurance and Medicare cards, insurance policies, identification and bank account records should also be secured. Creating emergency contact cards is also helpful in case family members are separated during an emergency.
  • Extra batteries for electronics: Older adults and people with disabilities are particularly dependent on electronic devices. Having extra batteries for equipment such as hearing aids, communication devices, and wheelchairs is helpful. Wheelchair and scooter users should also have a manual pump and patch kit on hand.
  • Identify your support network: Identifying family members, friends, and neighbors who can support you during an emergency is critical before disaster strikes. In addition, reach out to vulnerable individuals within your community who might need help during an emergency. Communicating your plan within your support network and practicing your plan are great ways for your community to stay informed and safe during an emergency.
  • Prepare your home: Clearing drains and gutters and securing and storing outdoor furniture and items such as firepits and grills can help to prevent structural damage.
  • Evacuation plan: The Maryland Department of Emergency Management offers tips on evacuation and checklists for family members and pets as well as a guide to returning home safely.

Additional resources

FEMA Region 3

Red Cross emergency contact card

Ready.gov (Department of Homeland Security)

Emergency supply kit checklist

Pet supply checklist

If you or someone you care about needs additional support to help cope, The Option Group is here to help. Please contact our professional care management team for assistance.

About The Option Group: Founded in 2010, The Option Group’s compassionate team of experienced Certified Life Care Managers serves families, their loved ones, medical professionals, and professional family advisors in Maryland, Pennsylvania, and Delaware. The firm understands the challenges of caring for an individual who needs assistance due to aging, dementia, disability, or serious illness. Our skilled providers possess over 100 years of combined experience navigating the healthcare maze and accessing hundreds of quality resources. The Option Group helps families spend quality time with their loved ones, providing clear choices that lead to better care. For more information, visit www.theoptiongroup.net or call 410-667-0266 (MD) or 717-287-9900 / 610-885-8899 / 215-896-6756 (PA) or 302-858-6449 (DE).