Caregivers, Are You Ready for a Disaster?

Emergency Preparedness Checklist

Daddy and I were walking across the living room one night recently when the house suddenly went dark. The power was out, but fortunately, I was prepared.

Plugged into the outlet in front of us was a power-failure light that comes on automatically. It also serves as an automatic nightlight and a portable flashlight. I have the lights strategically plugged in throughout the house, and they lit our way to safety.

I also realized that no electricity meant no air-conditioning, which quickly can become unbearable in Phoenix. Once I got Dad settled, I made plans to move him to an air-conditioned location in case power wasn’t rapidly restored.

When you’re a caregiver, it’s crucial to be ready for these kinds of emergencies. Especially with severe summer weather coming — hurricanes, tornadoes, fires — now is the time to think about preparing your loved ones for natural disasters.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency ( FEMA) has created America’s PrepareAthon!, which focuses on increasing emergency preparedness through hazard-specific drills, group discussions and exercises for six hazards: earthquake, flood, hurricane, tornado, wildfire and winter storm.  There are two National PrepareAthon! Days each year, April 30 and September 30, and September is National Preparedness Month.

When we lost electricity I was prepared with power-failure lights and lanterns.

In addition, here are some things caregivers should focus on when preparing for emergencies:

  • Financial and legal preparedness: I’m making sure key documents for Dad’s financial records, health care power of attorney and other advance directives are easy to access in case of an emergency where we need to evacuate quickly. Dad’s attorneys and accountant have copies of everything, and I also have electronic copies available via a secure online storage app.
  • Alerts and warnings: I receive wireless emergency alerts automatically on my smartphone, but I’ve also checked out other options for local alerts.
  • Emergency communication plans: With contact lists always handy in our smartphones, few of us have memorized key phone numbers. But you can’t always depend on cellphone service under severe conditions, so I also have a written list of key family members’ contact information. Would your loved ones know how to contact you in an emergency?
  • Emergency supplies: My power-failure lights in the house are just one way to be prepared. I also have emergency health supplies in our cars and in our home. I always keep some bottled water in the house, and Dad’s medications and mine are in containers that would be easy to take with us. Keeping a basic disaster supply kit in a handy location is a good idea; if you’ve already done that, you need to check the supplies once a year to be sure everything is still in good condition.
  • Property and insurance: I plan to take photos of both Dad’s and my property and double-check our insurance coverage. I have digital copies of many family photos, but I realize I need to scan some of the older photos to ensure they wouldn’t be lost in a disaster.

There’s great information on preparing for these and other hazards, as well as advice on how to recover from a disaster, at And you’ll find more of my tips on caregiving crisis management in my book, AARP’s Juggling Work and Caregiving.

Amy Goyer is AARP’s family, caregiving and multigenerational issues expert; she spends most of her time in Phoenix, where she is caring for her dad, who lives with her. She is the author of AARP’s  Juggling Work and Caregiving . Follow Amy on Twitter @amygoyer and on Facebook.

Photo: fstop123/iStock

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