Waiting for the Rain: The Importance of Preparation

It’s been just over a year since Hurricane Harvey ravaged the American South. Soon after the disaster, help poured in from all over the country. The Atlanta Braves, for example, pitched in to the relief effort by donating $25,000 to victims. In addition, Braves fans donated much-needed hygiene items at the gates, including diapers, baby wipes, soap, toothbrushes, and wash clothes. As the months passed, the disaster was slowly forgotten. Unfortunately for many affected, however, the damage is STILL far from repaired.

To mitigate this risk of long-term damage, it is vitally important for our communities — and families — to prepare for these threats. For older adults, this preparation is especially important.

Paula Leak
Paula Leak

To learn more about disaster preparedness for older adults, we spoke with Paula Leak, a Homeland Security and Recovery Analyst at the Atlanta Regional Commission and Project Manager for the Citizen Corps Program for the metro Atlanta region.

“Some seniors might think that preparing for a disaster is about trying to save everything they own,” Ms. Leak clarified, “when in fact, preparedness is so that you can cope during and after the disaster – the aftermath of which can last days or sometime weeks.”

Below, Ms. Leak offers several important ways that YOU can prepare for the unexpected.

Create a Support Network

One of the most important — and often overlooked — aspects of disaster preparedness can be creating a network support. This is important whether a disaster occurs or not.

Make sure that you have a plan that outlines how to communicate with your network when disaster strikes. How will you get your medication? Will you have transportation? Who can help you maintain your food supply? For personal emergencies, make sure that you have an Emergency Response plan.

Organize, Organize, Organize!

You don’t have to spend a lot of money to compile a Disaster Kit. The Red Cross has a fantastic resource called “For Seniors By Seniors”. This checklist helps you assemble items that you probably already have. Medication, granola bars, first aid items, flashlight (not candles), water, playing cards and/or crossword puzzles are some of the items you might need or want.

Plan for your Pets

Don’t forget about your furry friends! The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) has a Pet Care: Disaster Preparedness document to ensure that your furry friends will be taken care of.

Become a Trained Volunteer

Do you or a loved one want to become a trained volunteer? FEMA works with local organizations to train volunteers about disaster preparedness so that communities can “respond to and recovery from disasters”. The program is called Metro Atlanta Community Emergency Response Team (CERT).

Another organization that is active in Atlanta is the National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (VOAD). VOAD is an “association of organizations that mitigate and alleviate the impact of disasters”, while increasing coordination and cooperation between regions.

To learn more about how you can take steps to protect yourself and your family from natural disasters and other emergencies, please contact Empowerline by calling (404) 463-3333 or visit our Emergency Response and Assistive Technology page.

Arin Yost

Arin is a Program Analyst at the Atlanta Regional Commission, where his work focuses on health disparities and equity across the Atlanta region.