Hurricane Season Planning Guide for Savannah Seniors

Hurricane season is right around the corner, and as ever, a high level of activity is predicted for the city of Savannah. For its residents, this means it’s time to start preparing for any possible problems, such as power outages, damage to property or evacuation.

Making arrangements beforehand is vital for ensuring your safety during this season, and for making sure you are well prepared to deal with any possible dangers or inconveniences. For senior citizens, this can be a more complex affair than for the younger population, as impaired mobility or illness can prevent you from making the necessary preparations unassisted.

For those living with a home caregiver, or in an assisted living facility, there will be people around to help you prepare. However, it is still vitally important to ensure you are well-versed on what to do in the event of a disaster, and the weeks running up to hurricane season are the best time to familiarize yourself with this.

Whether you are living alone, with a caregiver or in an assisted living facility, it is crucial to plan and prepare for hurricane season adequately, so that your safety is assured in the event of a disaster.

Historic Hurricanes in Savannah
Savannah has had its fair share of hurricanes over the past few decades, most notable of which was Hurricane Matthew in 2016. This record-breaking Category 5 storm mandated evacuation across the entire coastline of Georgia, including Savannah.

Causing widespread damage and destruction, Hurricane Matthew was the most significant of all the storms during hurricane season last year, and it devastated many local communities. Although the extent of the damage was mostly confined to the coastal regions of Florida, areas throughout Georgia experienced significant flooding and resultant damage to properties, and many residents were without power for more than a week as a result of damage to power lines.

The NOAA has predicted higher than usual levels of activity, which means that a large number of storms and hurricanes are imminent this season.

Making sure you are well informed and well prepared for the potential risks of this hurricane season is crucial for preventing injuries and ensuring your safety. Guarding against the worst possible scenario is the safest way to prepare for the turbulent weather at this time of year.

What are the Risks?
The risks to your property and self during a hurricane are significant, and every possible measure should be taken to ensure the safety of yourself and your home. A strong storm has the power to inflict devastating damage, and it can cause a number of problems, the most likely of which are as follows:

Power Outages - Power cuts during a hurricane are almost inevitable, as strong gusts of wind topple power lines, or they are damaged by falling trees or flying debris. Depending on the severity of the storm, this could leave you without power and unable to leave your house for several hours, or possibly even days. Making sure you have an adequate supply of everything you’re likely to need in this scenario is critical for ensuring your comfort and safety.

Damage to Property - High winds and heavy rain can wreak havoc on your home, causing flooding and damage to the exterior of your house. Doing what you can to secure your home prior to the storm can help to prevent any significant damage.

Injury - You should never venture outside in the event of a hurricane, but ensuring you have somewhere safe and comfortable in your home to wait out the storm is also important. This is particularly true for elderly citizens, as it will need to be easily accessible and suitably equipped to accommodate any needs.

Staying informed about the likelihood of storms and hurricanes in your area and their expected severity is of critical importance throughout hurricane season. Knowing what to expect a few days in advance will give you time to make any last-minute preparations to secure your home and ensure your safety.

Most of your preparation, however, should be done in the weeks leading up to hurricane season, guaranteeing you have everything you need at the time. Here are the top things to consider when putting together a disaster plan, and what you can do to navigate any potential limitations presented by a lack of mobility or transport.

72-hour Go Bag for Shelter
Putting together a basic kit with enough supplies to last through a 72-hour stay at a shelter should be a fundamental part of your hurricane preparation. This should contain water and food for both humans and pets, cell phones with chargers and a backup power pack, maps, a first aid kit, a crank-operated flashlight and extra batteries, all of which will be vital in the event of a power outage. Also, have some cash on hand, because banks may not be available in disaster areas.

Make copies of medical records for each person and pet and store them in the bag. Have at least two weeks of all medical supplies and medication. Those with allergies should have a medical ID. Know where you keep important identification papers like your social security card, passport and birth certificate and add them to the bag at the last minute, or insert copies, so it will be simpler to renew these documents if necessary.

Assembling a 72-hour Go Bag may require trips to a few different stores, so plan ahead. Friends, family and neighbors can assist you in gathering everything you need before hurricane season. For even greater convenience, you can order everything online and have it delivered straight to your door.

Backpacks work well as Go Bags and should be placed in a designated spot where emergency workers can find it easily when an evacuation occurs. Consider a bag with wheels to make it easier to transport.

Be sure your bag has an ID tag so you can identify it at the shelter if it gets separated. Label any durable medical equipment, such as wheelchairs, canes or walkers with identifying stickers. Check expiration dates before the beginning of every hurricane season, and renew or refresh any expired items.

Senior citizens living with a home caregiver will likely have more readily available assistance than those living alone. Make sure you discuss any specific medication, supplies or equipment you might require, and that you both know where the Go Bag is located in the event of an emergency. If you live in an assisted living facility, they’ll likely have the essentials covered, but you’ll still need your important papers, cell phone and a small first aid kit.

Stock Up to Stay Home

Now that your Go Bag is in order, it’s time to start stocking up on everything else you may need in the event of a lengthy power cut or period of isolation caused by road blockages. Power outages during hurricane season are a near certainty, and depending on the severity of the storm, can be expected to last days or even weeks. It is crucial to prepare adequately for power cuts, as leaving your house during the storm will be out of the question, and you may have to wait a long time for the power to return to normal.

One gallon of clean water per person for each day is recommended. Additional water supplies may be needed for pets. You’ll need some non-perishable food supplies that don’t require electricity or gas to prepare. Make certain you have a manually operated can opener to open canned foods in case of power loss.

Traditional corded phones do not require electricity to charge and operate like a cordless phone does. If the power goes out, but phone lines are unaffected, having this communication service can be lifesaving.

Disaster experts recommend filling your tub with clean water. It can be used to flush toilets, bathe or for cleaning if your water service is disconnected. Candles are not recommended for use during hurricane season because of the danger of undetected gas leaks.

If you usually rely on home health services, it may be difficult for them to reach you in the event of a power outage. Setting up a small support network of people nearby, whom you can contact in the event of any difficulties, is highly advisable. If you live in a care home, be sure to familiarize yourself with your facility’s plan in the event of a power cut, as this can help to minimize confusion and keep things running smoothly.

If it is likely the power will be out for an extended period, it may be advisable to evacuate, particularly if you have a medical complaint that may be affected by a lack of power. If your medical services are dependent on power, ensure you have access to a backup battery or generator for short-term outages. Call and let the electric company know your house has a medical dependency on power, and they will mark your account as a priority for re-connect.

In the Event of Evacuation
During particularly strong storms, you may be advised to evacuate your home. This is usually the case if the predicted wind speed is strong enough to cause structural damage to buildings, if there is a storm surge expected in coastal areas, or if lengthy power cuts are imminent.

When it comes to preparing for hurricane season, there are considerations that should factor in all the planning for senior citizens. Limited mobility, various medical conditions and lack of transportation can all throw obstacles in the way of efficient preparation or safe evacuation, and you may need to take extra measures to ensure your safety. This can lead to higher mortality rates among seniors during hurricanes, as many become trapped in their homes, where they succumb to the effects of the storm or from pre-existing health conditions that are exacerbated by the situation.

Planning for what to do in the event of an evacuation, therefore, is one of the most important parts of your hurricane preparation. Here are the top things for senior citizens to consider when putting together a disaster plan:

Medications and Health Care
If you are suffering from a medical condition that requires regular care or medication, it is crucial that you think carefully about what you may need in the event of a disaster, and assemble everything well in advance.

Make sure you have at least a two-week supply of all necessary medications on hand, and stock up on any other medical supplies you may need. If you have limited mobility, arrange for someone reliable to assist you with stocking up on medications, and who can help you with anything you may need in the event of an evacuation.

Create a Support Network
Creating a small network of people who are nearby to help and assist you should you need it is vital, particularly for senior citizens living alone. Making sure that there are people on hand who are ready to help is essential for ensuring your safety in the event of an evacuation.

If you drive, make sure to stash a 72-hour Go Bag in your car beforehand, keep your fuel tank topped up and stow a map of Georgia in the glove box. If you no longer drive, arrange to travel to your nearest shelter with a neighbor or anyone else living close by who can help you.

As a last resort, keep a list of phone numbers handy for anyone else you can contact in case of an emergency, so you can alert others to your situation.

Know your Limitations and Prepare Accordingly
Many senior citizens have problems with mobility, limited access to suitable transport or medical conditions that require special consideration. Knowing where you will need extra help and assistance, and making the necessary arrangements to ensure you get it, can make all the difference when it comes to ensuring your safety in a disaster situation.

Always pay attention to alerts on the news in the days leading up to a hurricane. If the officials in your area give the notice to evacuate, do so immediately and without hesitation.

Those living with a caregiver should devise a plan that you are both familiar with, so in the event of an evacuation, you can act calmly and decisively. If you are living in an assisted living facility, spend the weeks leading up to hurricane season making sure you know the evacuation protocol for your center. Ensuring you know where to go and what to do will allow everything to run more smoothly at the time, so that you and the other residents can be evacuated safely and efficiently.

Final Thoughts
Making sure you are well-prepared for hurricane season is critical for ensuring you are safe and comfortable during the storm. Whether you are faced with a power outage or an evacuation, being knowledgeable about what to do and keeping well stocked with everything you need are  the best ways to make sure you don’t face any significant problems in the event of an emergency.

For senior citizens, the task of adequately preparing for hurricane season can be a little more challenging, due to issues with mobility, transportation or medical complaints. Whether you live alone, with a caregiver or in an assisted living facility, there is plenty you can do in the weeks leading up to this time of year to address any limitations and potential issues.

Making all the necessary arrangements for hurricane season well in advance is the best way to ensure your safety and comfort in the event of an emergency, whatever your living situation may be.