September has been declared National Preparedness Month by presidential proclamation. Last week we presented information on the importance of keeping an emergency kit on hand in the case of an emergency, including hurricanes or tornadoes. Today, our Treasure Coast personal injury attorneys offer key information for ensuring our senior population is included in emergency plans.

In the proclamation, President Obama declared: “I encourage all Americans to recognize the importance of preparedness and observe this month by working together to enhance our national security, resilience, and readiness.”

It is especially important for everyone to reach out to their older neighbors and family members who may need help during an emergency. In addition to having physical disabilities that could make it difficult to get out of their homes quickly, senior citizens may have limited vision or hearing that could prevent them from realizing the urgency of a situation. If they are alone, it is possible that they are unaware of an impending storm or were not able to adequately prepare prior to its arrival.

According to the Federal Interagency Forum on Aging-Related Statistics, in 2010, there were 40 million people age 65 and over in the United States, accounting for 13 percent of the total population. Nationwide, 19 percent of men over age 65 and 37.3 percent of the women live alone.

Florida had the highest proportion of people age 65 and over, at 17 percent. Within Florida, the percentage of older adults varies widely by county. Sumter Country has the highest proportion of adults over 65 years old at 43 percent, and several other Florida counties have over 30 percent of the population over 65.

Seniors should take appropriate steps before any emergency to be prepared and to ensure that others have all the information needed to help keep them safe. Older adults should collect and consolidate information, including documents that identify allergies, medications and medical conditions, doctor contacts, insurance account numbers and family contact numbers. An emergency kit including all appropriate papers, medicines, food and water should be prepared and easily accessible in case an evacuation is required.

Florida residents who are heading to the grocery store or hardware store to get supplies for a pending emergency are urged to take the time to ask elderly neighbors whether they need anything. If they decline, make sure they are aware of the upcoming danger and encourage them to begin preparing in case of an evacuation.

Following are suggestions for supporting seniors and the disabled if they need to be taken to an emergency shelter:

  • If time permits, contact the person’s emergency contact to let them know where you will be taking them.
  • If the person cannot walk, make sure to find a wheelchair, or secure one at the shelter.
  • Make sure to bring any medical devices such as glasses, hearing aids, or walking canes, which are necessary for ensuring their comfort and safety.
  • Double check that the person’s emergency kit is with them and make sure to include any other clothes or personal items that may be needed.
  • Contact the person’s emergency contact to assure them their loved one has been safely evacuated.
  • Work with the local emergency responders and relief agencies

It is important to stay calm and reassuring to the elderly during an emergency to limit stress and keep them calm. It is also important to keep in mind that some people may not be willing to leave their homes during an emergency. In that case, make sure to leave them with plenty of food and water, batteries and necessary contact information.

Our South Florida personal injury attorneys encourage all residents to take emergencies seriously and to always be prepared. In this state where floods, hurricanes, thunderstorms, tornadoes, and extreme heat present very real dangers that can result in serious injury, or death, we ask that you not only take care of yourself and your family but also reach out to the elderly who may need assistance.

About Philip DeBerard, Florida Injury Attorney

The law firm of Philip DeBerard, Injury Attorney, has provided professional and compassionate legal assistance to personal injury and accident victims in South Florida on the Treasure Coast since 1975. The firm’s office is located at 215 Southwest Federal Highway, Suite 300, Stuart, Fla. 34994. (Local phone number (772) 286-1000). Its practice areas include car accidents, motorcycle accidents, truck accidents, product liability, swimming pool accidents, slip and fall injuries, dog bite injuries, medical malpractice, and wrongful death claims.

The firm represents clients throughout the South Florida communities of Port St. Lucie, Fort Pierce, Jupiter, Stuart, Okeechobee, Vero Beach, Palm Beach, and across the state of Florida. For more information, call (800) 299-8878 or use the firm’s online contact form.