Disaster Discourse: The Hagerty Blog

Know Your Risk, Be Prepared: Emergency Planning for Older Adults and Caregivers

Disasters and emergencies can happen when you least expect it, and while they can affect anyone at any age, the impact on older adults can be greater due to varying challenges that can come with advanced age, including access and functional needs, social isolation, and pre-existing health conditions. Accordingly, it is important for older adults and any caregivers they may have to have a plan in place that includes all critical contact and healthcare information and any important documents, as well as supplies that are easily accessible to respond with. Below are some important things to keep in mind as you plan for the disaster risk(s) you may face. 

Disaster Preparedness for Older Adults: Assess the Risks and Capabilities

When planning for emergencies, it is important to gain an understanding of the types of disasters that are most likely to happen in your area. For example, those near bodies of water may be more likely to experience flooding, tropical storms, or hurricanes, especially if you are near the ocean. Wildfires may be more prominent in forested areas, or you may be in a community where there may be a likelihood of earthquakes or tornadoes. Being aware of what types of disasters can affect your area is important to developing an emergency plan.

Know the Basics: Understanding Local Emergency Procedures and Where to Find Information

When a major disaster happens, your area and community can change in a short period of time. It is important to understand how to get local emergency information and how your community will respond. Some ways you can become informed include:

  • Signing up to receive critical alerts via your community’s emergency notification system by contacting your state, county, or city emergency management agency. You can also sign up for Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEAs) to receive notifications that are authorized by federal, state, local, and tribal authorities. 
  • Knowing the difference between weather alerts – advisories, watches, and warnings have different actions that should be taken.
  • Understanding what actions to take to protect yourself during an emergency, such as:
    • Ensuring caregivers and family members are trained in cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), first aid, and how to use important medical devices, including an automated external defibrillator (AED). Medical help may be delayed in an emergency, so having basic first-aid training is important.
    • Get emergency preparedness training through volunteer programs, like the American Red Cross or the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Community Emergency Response Team (CERT), to increase your skills and ability to assess an emergency situation and act quickly.
    • Consider planning for the needs of your pets and service animals, including extra food, water, evacuation, and animal sheltering options.
  • Learn about your local community’s emergency response plans, evacuation plans, and routes by visiting your local emergency management agency website. Your local emergency management office or American Red Cross Chapter will have information on official shelters and procedures for those without access to private transportation. 

Have Emergency Supplies Ready

It is important to have emergency supply kits ready to go before disaster strikes. Having two kits might be helpful, including one for natural disasters and one for medical emergencies that would support a stay at the hospital. 

The kit for natural disasters should include nonperishable food with a can opener, water for several days, a flashlight, a radio that is battery-powered, chargers, and extra batteries, including an external battery to charge cell phones and needed electronics on the go. Also needed is a first aid kit with extra necessary medications, if possible, a change of clothes that are weather appropriate, and any other essential personal items. Ready.gov has a complete checklist, including flyers to help with the planning process. 

The kit used for medical emergencies and hospital stays should include important medical documents, including advanced directives, healthcare power of attorney, and other important forms, as applicable. It is encouraged to have a list – either digitally or in a personal file – including any allergies, a current list of medications and chronic conditions, comfortable slippers, toiletries, any needed dentures, hearing aids, glasses, or other essential items.

Make a Personal Plan

To start your planning process, make a master list of all essential information you might need when impacted by a disaster.

Additionally, to learn more about personal planning information for caregivers, consider reviewing this planning tool offered by the American Psychological Association (APA).

Once you have your master lists developed, create an evacuation plan for emergencies. This would include identified family, friends, and neighbours who live nearby and can coordinate transportation to either a shelter or an agreedupon location. Ensure that the older adult and caregiver have their phone numbers and share the older adults phone number with them. Take time to practice your evacuation plan and know how to get official shelter and evacuation information. 


You never know when disasters might strike, but you can be ready by preparing for the risks you may face. By knowing your disaster risks, gathering emergency supplies, and making an advanced plan, you are better prepared to face an emergency with confidence, as well as help your family and community recover.

Tamara Corpin is a managing associate and emergency management professional with more than 18 years of experience specializing in emergency operations planning, exercise design and development, and project management. In her role at Hagerty, Tamara supports project initiatives for federal, state, local, tribal, and/or private sector clients related to emergency management and homeland security, including assessments, plans, training, exercises, and evaluations.