Forced to Get By or Get Out

Forced to Get By or Get Out

By Crystal Hayduk

            It’s warm and sunny today. The leaves are green, and a floral scent hangs heavy in the air. Local strawberries make a sweet, juicy dessert.

            On a day like this, memories of the recent saturated spring begin to fade. The months when winter held us in its icy grip feel even more distant.

            But any day this week, a pop-up thunderstorm could knock out the power. A heavy rainstorm could flood streets. And next winter, the risk for blizzards and ice storms will return like clockwork.

            Acts of nature aside, nearby industrial accidents, chemical spills, or other manmade catastrophes are all possibilities that nobody wants to think about.

            In the event of a disaster requiring either sheltering-in-place alone or evacuating, is your loved one prepared? Are you?

            Often, people put off emergency preparedness planning. We lull ourselves into believing that by some means we’ll be able to get by or get out, either to save ourselves or to reach our older loved ones. But the reality is that circumstances may dictate otherwise.

            If you or your loved one aren’t equipped to either shelter-in-place or evacuate, consider making preparations to be ready in the event of a disaster.

            Links to brochures published by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), Ready, and the American Red Cross are listed below in the resource section. Once you take a look at them, you may see that there’s a lot more to preparedness than you bargained for. You think that it will take too much time, or feel overwhelmed by how many items are on the check-off list.

            I understand your reluctance. In the spirit of transparency, my family could do much more to be prepared. We have some of what we need, but none of it is packed to grab and go in the event of a call for evacuation. At our home, we experience power outages with some regularity, but our current back-up plan for managing without electricity includes checking the daily weather forecast. If thunderstorms are predicted, we pre-fill a bunch of containers with water so that we can drink, wash, and flush our toilets. A couple of weeks ago, when packing for an out-of-state trip to an area that’s been pounded by storms and flooding, I decided to take a flashlight. I found half a dozen flashlights – but no batteries. Yes, I’m ashamed. But I’ll admit our lack of attention to this matter if it will persuade even one person to get prepared.

            Will you join me in making a list and tackling one item a week or a couple a month? Prioritize the most important needs for your loved one:

·      Water and food for three days

·      Current medications and other needed medical supplies for seven days

·      Cell phone, radio, flashlight, batteries (remember batteries for hearing aids)

·      Small amount of cash

·      List of important phone numbers and copies of important documents, such as insurance (health/home), license, social security card, etc.

·      Extra clothing and hygiene items (toilet tissue/trash bags/toiletries)

·      Make a plan for how to stay in touch and/or where to meet in the event of an emergency, especially if the usual contact methods aren’t functioning properly.

·      Remember to plan for your four-legged family members, too.


*Disaster Preparedness for Seniors by Seniors, American Red Cross, Rochester, NY -

*Make a Plan (for seniors) -

*Prepare for Emergencies Now: Information for Older Americans, FEMA -