Lessons from Hurricane Sandy have taught us that both business owners and residents who were prepared fared better. And, we learned that preparedness goes farther than just having emergency supplies on hand. Unless critical documents are stored in a place for easy retrieval, recovery can be slowed to a stand still.
Tragically, there was one demographic, our senior citizens, who have had the most difficult time of all recovering after the devastation left from Superstorm Sandy. Because so many seniors don’t have access to digital resources, much of the necessary paperwork to make claims was swept away. And, because the mail system was impaired for many weeks, benefits checks were delayed or lost.
According to the United States Census Bureau, both Pennsylvania and New Jersey have higher than the national average of residents over the age of 65: 14.1 % of New Jersey residents are seniors and 16% of Pennsylvania residents are seniors. The national average is 13.7% . Currently, there are an estimated 1,125,605 seniors in New Jersey and 2,032,380 living in Pennsylvania.
But why should this matter?
Senior citizens have greater concerns like medications, special needs, and disabilities that can impair their attempts to care for themselves during and after a disaster.
So here’s a list of 20 tips for seniors and their caregivers to help them prepare summarized from the FEMA.gov website:
1. If you anticipate needing assistance during a disaster, talk to family, friends and others who will be part of your personal support network.
2. Write down and share each aspect of your emergency plan with everyone in your support network.
3. Make sure everyone knows how you plan to evacuate your home or workplace and where you will go in case of a disaster.
4. Make sure that someone in your local network has an extra key to your home and knows where you keep your emergency supplies.
5. Teach those who will help you how to use any lifesaving equipment, administer medicine in case of an emergency.
6. Practice your plan with those who have agreed to be part of your network.
7. If you take medicine or use medical treatment on a daily basis, be sure you have what you need to make it on your own for at least a week, maybe longer.
8. Keep written copies of your prescriptions, over-the-counter medications and orders for medical equipment, including dosage, treatment and allergy information in your emergency kit. Also consider keeping electronic copies of this information on a flash drive. This could be useful for others even if you don’t personally use a computer often.
9. If you are able to obtain an emergency supply of prescription medications or consumable medical supplies, be sure to establish a plan for rotating your supply so it remains up-to-date.
10. If you can’t easily obtain a emergency supplies, talk to your pharmacist or doctor about what else you can do to prepare.
11. If you are unable to obtain an emergency supply, be sure to always fill prescriptions on the first day you become eligible for a refill, rather than waiting until the day you run out.
12. If you undergo routine treatments administered by a clinic or hospital or if you receive regular services such as home health care, treatment or transportation, talk to your service provider about their emergency plans. Work with them to identify back-up service providers and incorporate them into your personal support network.
13. Consider keeping back up supplies of other personal needs items such as eyeglasses, contacts, hearing aids and hearing aid batteries, wheelchair batteries and oxygen.
14. Include copies of important documents in your emergency supply kits such as family records, medical records, wills, deeds, social security number, charge and bank accounts information and tax records.
15. Have copies of your medical insurance and Medicare cards readily available.
16. Keep a list of the style and serial number of medical devices or other life-sustaining devices. Include operating information and instructions.
17. Make sure that a friend, caregiver or family member has copies of these documents.
18. Include the names and contact information of your support network, as well as your medical providers.
19. If you have a communication disability, make sure your emergency information notes the best way to communicate with you.
20. Keep these documents in a water proof container for quick and easy access.
One last thing:
Senior citizens or people with disabilities who receive federal benefits may want to consider receiving payments electronically. In a disaster, mail service can be disrupted for days or even weeks – like it was during Superstorm Sandy. For those who depend on the mail for their Social Security benefits, a difficult situation became worse when they were evacuated or lost their mail service. (As 85,000 check recipients learned after Hurricane Katrina!)
Switching to electronic payments is one simple way people can protect themselves financially before disaster strikes.
And, it eliminates the risk of stolen checks.
The U.S. Department of the Treasury recommends two safer ways to get federal benefits:
- Direct deposit to a checking or savings account is the best option for people with bank accounts. Federal benefit recipients can sign up by calling (800) 333-1795 or at www.GoDirect.org.
- The Direct Express® prepaid debit card is designed as a safe and easy alternative to paper checks for people who don’t have a bank account. Sign up is easy – call toll-free at (877) 212-9991 or sign up online at www.USDirectExpress.com.
Signing up for direct deposit or the Direct Express® card is a simple but important step that can help protect your family’s access to funds in case the unthinkable were to happen. If you or those close to you are still receiving Social Security or other federal benefits by check, please consider switching to one of these safer, easier options.
And, as always, if you do need assistance with storm water damage from hurricanes, give us a call at 877-750-7876! We’re at your service 7 days a week, 24 hours a day.