The Pueblo West View

Seniors need to plan ahead for wildfires

When it comes time to evacuate during a wildfire, it’s always best to be prepared first. (Special to The View)
When it comes time to evacuate during a wildfire, it’s always best to be prepared first. (Special to The View)

In a wildfire season some officials are saying could be the worst in a century – and when several wildfires have already burned thousands of acres in Colorado – locals urge everyone, but particularly seniors, to plan ahead for possible evacuation needs.

Special precautions need to be taken when prepare aging loved ones for weather emergencies, stressed Katina Gordon, on behalf of Home Instead Senior Care, which has an office in Pueblo.

The Home Instead Senior Care office developed a disaster safety preparation checklist, suitable for us in emergencies such as wildfire evacuations. Older adults are among some of the most vulnerable victims when wildfires break out because of physical limitations.

“We know that a disaster can be deadly for some seniors because of physical and other limitations,” said Jerri Schomaker, owner of the Home Instead office serving the Colorado Springs area.

Folks in that area have already felt the pinch of wildfire emergencies this season.

“It’s important for families to talk with their senior loved ones and begin preparing in advance for any kind of emergency that could threaten their health or safety.”

The checklist created specially for seniors includes:

Tune in: Stay abreast of what is going on through local radio or television.

Take stock: Decide what the senior can or can’t do in the event of a disaster.

For example, if a loved one is wheelchair-bound, determine an evacuation strategy ahead of time.

To stay or go?: Older adults should decide to evacuate sooner than later, because in waiting too long, the may then be unable to leave if they need assistance.

Make a plan: Schedule a family meeting to develop an action plan, and include neighbors, friends, relatives and professional caregivers who could help.

More than one way out: Seniors should have at least two escape routes – one to evacuate the home and another to entirely evacuate their community. Local emergency management offices can provide escape routes out of a community.

Meet up: Designate a place to meet relatives or support network people outside the house, as well as outside the neighborhood at a place like a school or church.

Get up and go kit: Have an easy-to-carry backpack that includes three days of non-perishable food and water, with an additional four days of food and water readily accessible. Have at least a gallon of bottled water per person per day. Also include a blanket and paper products, and be sure to replace supplies twice a year.

Pack extras and copies: Have at least a one-month supply of medication on hand at all times.

Put other important documents in a waterproof protector, including copies of prescriptions, car title registration and driver’s license, insurance, bank account numbers and more.

Also take extra eyeglasses and hearing-aid batteries if needed.

Contact list: Compile a list of important contacts, including the senior’s support network, doctors and other professionals.

If you don’t live nearby your aging loved one, enlist the help of family or friends who are nearby to prep the senior, or contact a professional caregiving company.

More information is available at www.senioremergencykit.com and www.homeinstead.com.

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