Seniors should prepare an emergency kit in case of severe weather

Posted Feb. 02, 2012, at 12:50 p.m.

I’ve got to admit this has been a pretty mild winter. We’ve experienced some pretty heavy winds that have resulted in power outages and even though Bangor Hydro jumps into immediate action to restore service to its customers, sometimes we are left to our own devices for a while.

Nothing like pressing the coffeemaker’s “on” button only to have it go off again, along with the toaster which is housing your breakfast. Now while this is not an emergency, big storms that knock out power for days can be classified as an emergency situation. It can get cold in your house pretty fast.

You might even need to evacuate to a warming center so it is best to be prepared in advance.

Admittedly, it can be overwhelming when you start compiling items for an emergency kit. But once you begin, it all makes sense. The first step is to get a canvas bag or large backpack that can be grabbed quickly if you have to leave quickly. Pack a list of medications, including a three-day supply, an extra pair of eyeglasses if possible and the glasses’ prescription, a list of allergies, medical conditions, emergency contact information, a first aid kit, a copy of identification such as a license, sample sizes of personal care items, and an alcohol-based hand sanitizer. Also, pack some cash, nutritious non-perishable foods, a manual can opener, a battery operated radio, flashlights, extra batteries, and an extra set of keys.

You may also need extra hearing-aid and wheelchair batteries, oxygen, and a list of the model and serial numbers of any medical devices such as pacemakers.

Make sure your phone will work if the power is off. If you have a cordless phone that has a power pack, unplug it from the outlet. If you do not get a dial tone, think about getting an “old-fashioned” phone that just plugs into the phone jack as a back-up, or invest in a cell phone. Just make sure the battery stays charged.

If you have a pet, keep plenty of food and treats in the kit and make emergency arrangements in advance in case your furry loved one is unable to accompany you to a shelter. Check with your veterinarian’s office or local animal shelter to see if temporary accommodations are available.

Some other helpful tips are:

• Arrange to have someone check on you. Perhaps devise a signal to alert your neighbors that something is wrong, such as hanging a hunter orange cloth on the front door.

• Plan escape routes from different areas of your home and then practice them often, especially with grandchildren.

• Have a contact out of the area or state. Sometimes it is easier to call away than locally.

• Plan ahead for disasters with any home health agencies that visit you regularly.

Now ask yourself these questions:

• Are my phone numbers up to date?

• Have I talked to my neighbors and family about what might happen in a blizzard, fire, flood, etc.?

• How would I find out about a disaster if I lost power?

• How would I contact family members if the phone lines were down?

• What would I need if I couldn’t get out for a few days?

• Is there a family member that requires special accommodations?

• What are the most important things I need to have with me if I am forced to evacuate?

While it is next to impossible to be prepared for every situation, with a little forethought and effort you can be ready for most emergencies.

Carol Higgins Taylor is director of communications at Eastern Area Agency on Aging. Email Higgins Taylor at chtaylor@eaaa.org. For information on EAAA, call 941-2865 toll-free (800) 432-7812, email info@eaaa.org or log on EAAA.org. TTY 992-0150.

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