A Legacy To Keep Everyone Safe

A social media image titled A Lasting Legacy. There is a photo of 3 generations of Black women on a front porch. Text reads: The life you've built is worth protecting. Prepare for disasters to create a lasting legacy for you and your family. Visit READY.GOV/PLAN.

Howard Ruff, a financial advisor and writer, once said, “It wasn’t raining when Noah built the ark.” That’s a great cue for all of us in September, which is National Preparedness Month. This year’s campaign, called “Ready,” is focused on preparing older adults for disaster.

Launched in 2004, National Preparedness Month was created by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to educate and empower Americans in planning for all types of emergencies, from natural disasters to terrorist attacks. Overall, there are four ways to make sure you are prepared for everyone’s safety.

Stay in the loop. Forewarned is forearmed, so arm yourself with information about the types of disasters or emergencies that could happen in your area or where your loved one lives. Different locations will have a different mix of possible hazards. For example, while avalanches may not impact your life, hurricanes might. FEMA offers a 34-page document (PDF) explaining how to prepare for a variety of emergencies, which can help inform older adults.

Be informed about where to turn for warnings and updates, and make sure others, particularly older relatives and friends, know how to find reliable information. This booklet (PDF) outlines all the types of alerts and warnings.

Finally, stay on top of your insurance and other important documents so you can recover them easily. With cloud storage, it’s now easier to keep photos and videos of what is important out of harm’s way. For loved ones who may need help doing this, the activity can turn into a great way to learn about family heirlooms and stories.

1. Make a plan. When we think of preparing for a disaster, we often list bottled water and canned food as critical items. Don’t forget other things that are important as well. For example, consider:

  • How will you communicate with loved ones or find public updates?
  • Are there specific household essentials, like baby formula or pet food, that you need to ensure are on hand?
  • How will you evacuate if necessary? Are there assistive devices that you need to bring with you, such as a wheelchair or walker?
  • Who can be part of your support network to assist in case you can’t get in touch with loved ones? What do they need to have (a house key?) and know (medicine requirements?) to provide aid?
  • If you need routine medical treatments, where can you find back-up services? has a downloadable form to get your plan started. Don’t forget to practice!

2. Build a kit. An emergency kit will help you and your loved ones survive a few days before additional help arrives. We know that nonperishable food and clean water are essential; here are a few more items you may not have thought of:

  • A manual can opener top open any canned food
  • Plastic sheeting and duct tape to help shelter in place
  • Moist towelettes, garbage bags, plastic ties, and hand sanitizer for personal sanitation
  • A wrench or pliers to shut off utilities
  • Printed local maps in case you need to travel somewhere
  • A whistle to signal for help
  • Cash for purchasing items
  • Extra water and food for pets as well as a selfie you took with your pet in case you get separated

This checklist (PDF) provides a robust overview of items needed.

3. Get involved. You are the help until help arrives. Think about joining the Community Emergency Response Team to get trained on basic disaster response skills, including fire safety and disaster medical operations. The more you know, the safer everyone around you will be. 

Preparing for everyone’s safety can seem overwhelming – but it doesn’t have to be. In fact, the Red Cross has a handy activity list with actions to take every day during September to get more prepared. If a disaster or emergency strikes, you’ll be grateful for any steps you take in making sure all your loved ones can be safe.

Categories: Senior Health