Harvard Men's Health Watch

Be ready for emergencies

Here are 10 ways to safeguard your life (and health) when an emergency or disaster strikes.

Natural disasters and other kinds of emergencies can strike anywhere and often with little warning. Yet, new data from the University of Michigan National Poll on Healthy Aging show that most adults ages 50 to 80 are ill-prepared for severe weather, long-term power outages, or other emergency situations.

“Older adults should take the time to focus on how they will cope and manage with an emergency,” says Dr. Howard LeWine, assistant professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and editor-in-chief of this newsletter. “A small effort now can protect their health and well-being when an emergency does occur.”

Prepare and plan

What is the best course of action? Here are 10 tips from emergency preparedness professionals, federal agencies, and the National Poll on Healthy Aging that can prep you for your next emergency:

  • Sign up for your local community’s emergency warning system, such as a smartphone app or messaging service. This can offer timely information about approaching storms, evacuation orders, and public health emergencies. You also can sign up for the federal emergency alert system at www.health.harvard.edu/eas.
  • Choose a designated meeting place with your family in case you need to evacuate fast. Pick two locations: one near your home and the other outside your neighborhood.
  • Create an emergency group in your phone’s contact list. This way you can text everyone at once.
  • Get a medical ID bracelet if you have any specific medical conditions or allergies and add emergency contact information to it.
  • Buy a portable battery or solar cellphone charger and a battery-powered or hand-crank radio so you can continue to communicate with others and receive vital information.
  • Prepare a home emergency kit. The package should include the following: one daily gallon of water per person for three days; three-day supply of nonperishable food (and can opener if needed); first aid kit; whistle to signal for help; dust masks; local maps (in case you have no cellphone coverage); and a toolkit. Learn more about creating a kit at www.ready.gov/kit.
  • Invest in a generator if you regularly use any medical equipment that requires electricity.
  • Maintain at least a seven-day stock of medications or other essential health supplies at all times, like hearing aid batteries and backup eyeglasses.
  • Keep a list of your drugs in your wallet, along with your medical insurance cards.
  • Set up an emergency financial fund to cover unexpected costs. Also, keep cash on hand at home.
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