Getting to safety when faced with an impending weather emergency or natural disaster is a top priority for families and local authorities. Planning and preparing for these events can reduce the physical risks and emotional impact on families, especially on older adults who may live alone or with a family caregiver.
It is possible to improve the safety of older adults and family caregivers and reduce the long-term impact on their emotional and physical wellbeing by preparing throughout the year, being aware of impending weather emergencies or natural disasters, and communicating an evacuation and sheltering plan to family and caregivers.
Staying organized and taking preventive steps allows family caregivers to concentrate on meeting the immediate needs of an elderly parent or spouse under their care.
Consider the following preventive actions:
Identify weather-related conditions or emergencies that threaten your area
What are the common weather-related conditions that affect your community throughout the year? Coastal areas and neighboring cities in Florida, for example, could be at risk from heavy rains, strong winds, and flooding during the Atlantic hurricane season from June 1 to November 30.
Other emergency concerns for Central Florida include wildfires caused by lightning strikes, outdoor trash burning, and even arson. Florida wildfires can occur at any time of the year, according to the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services and the Florida Forest Service.
Organize a support group of reliable family members, trusted friends, and caregivers who can step in and assist a family caregiver and older adult. Inform them of your plans for when a storm or a disaster hits your area.
Support-group members can gather clothing, pack essentials, sort out emergency kits, get the family car ready, and fill the tank before an impending emergency evacuation. Knowing who will be available and who can assist before, during, and after a weather emergency or natural disaster should be at the top of a family caregiver’s emergency plan. Update phone and contact information periodically.
Stay informed by accessing important weather information. Sign up for local emergency-alert and warning-system applications. Seminole County, Florida has an emergency-alert system that provides information during emergencies affecting the county. For information, or to sign up with the system, check out Alert Seminole.
Orange County, Florida also provides citizens with a mobile emergency-notification system, the OCFL Alert. This system can be downloaded via Apple’s App Store or the Google Play. You can receive severe-weather announcements, traffic and evacuation information, and other pertinent notifications.
Current Atlantic area advisory information can be obtained via the National Hurricane Center and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) websites. You can also access weather advisories via a battery-operated NOAA weather radio, should you lose power. Always include this type of radio in your family’s emergency kit.
Whether or not the emergency is weather related, family caregivers should always stay alert and be aware of local emergency advisories affecting their community. Not heeding an emergency advisory or not paying attention to a call for evacuation places loved ones and family caregivers at risk.
Prepare an emergency supply kit with enough water and non-perishable foods for three to seven days. Consider packing a minimum of one gallon of water per day for each person in your household. Include flashlights, batteries, portable phone chargers, and a car phone charger. Pack medications to last 30 days and include prescriptions signed by your physician. Do not forget to include a battery-operated NOAA weather radio in your emergency kit. For a more complete disaster supply-kit list, visit Florida’s Division of Emergency Management at https://floridadisaster.org/planprepare/disaster-supply-kit/
If you are going to a shelter, check with your local county for items to include in a shelter kit. You can also check with Florida’s Division of Emergency Management at https://floridadisaster.org/planprepare/disability/evacuations-and-shelters/shelter-information/what-to-take/
Depending on the type of weather emergency or natural disaster, local authorities may advise residents to leave their home and go to an emergency shelter. In some cases, older adults who are frail, need extra care, or have dementia may need to go to a special-needs shelter. The Florida Department of Health defines a Special Needs Shelter as follows:
“A Special Needs Shelter (SpNS) is for someone who, during periods of evacuation or emergency, requires sheltering assistance due to physical impairment, mental impairment, cognitive impairment, or sensory disabilities.”
If older adults in your family need sheltering assistance because of any of these conditions, help them to register with your county’s special-needs shelter program. Home-health agencies and hospice-care agencies can also register clients under their care. For more information about registering in your county, please visit:
County emergency-management departments may require an annual registration. To qualify for a special-needs shelter program, the person registering must meet the criteria set by the special needs shelter program. Submitting an application to stay at a special-needs shelter does not mean you will automatically be approved, so verify this with your county’s emergency-management department and special-needs program representative.
Adults who live at home and receive daily nursing care, need assistance with activities of daily living, or use life-saving medical devices are encouraged to register with the special-needs shelter program in their community.
For information about Orange County’s special-needs shelter program, please call the Orange County Special Needs Registration line at (407) 836-9319 or visit
If you live in Orange County, Florida and want to learn more about emergency shelters and pet-friendly shelters, please visit http://www.ocfl.net/EmergencySafety/Shelters.aspx#.W6ucF3tKj3g
For information about Osceola County’s Special Needs Program, please call (407) 742-9001
If you live in Seminole County, Florida, and want to learn about emergency planning, please visit http://www.seminolecountyfl.gov/departments-services/county-managers-office/prepare-seminole/make-a-plan/ .
If you have any questions about Seminole County’s special-needs shelter program, please contact the Seminole County Office of Emergency Management at (407) 665-5102 or visit
We hope the information we have provided in our blog is helpful to you and your family. Staying prepared for an emergency and taking preventive steps to ensure the safety of older adults and family caregivers should be a top priority for every community and all families.
Should you need assistance in caring for a loved one and would like to inquire about home health care services, call Senior Helpers Orlando at (407) 628-4357. We will be glad to schedule a meeting at your earliest convenience. Senior Helpers of Orlando provides Alzheimer’s care and home health care services in the counties of Orange, Osceola and Seminole.
Ana P. De Lane
Senior Helpers Orlando Team Member
Current Wildfire Conditions; Florida Forest Service and Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. Retrieved Oct. 2, 2018, from https://www.freshfromflorida.com/Divisions-Offices/Florida-Forest-Service/Wildland-Fire/Current-Wildfire-Conditions2
Disaster Supply Kit. Florida Division of Emergency Management; FloridaDisaster.ORG. Retrieved Oct. 1, 2018, from https://floridadisaster.org/planprepare/disaster-supply-kit/
OCFL Alert. Mobile Applications and Newsletters; Orange County Government. Retrieved Oct. 1, 2018, from http://www.orangecountyfl.net/Home/NewslettersAlerts/OCFLAlert.aspx#.W7KpRntKj3h
OCFL Alert. iTunes (Apple): https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/ocfl-alert/id382270656
OCFL Alert. Google Play: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=net.ocfl.android.ocflalerts
National Hurricane Center. Retrieved Oct. 1, 2018, from https://www.nhc.noaa.gov/
Special Needs Shelter Program. Florida Department of Health. Retrieved Oct. 1, 2018, from http://www.floridahealth.gov/programs-and-services/emergency-preparedness-and-response/disaster-response-resources/spns-index.html
What to Take to a Shelter. Florida Division of Emergency Management; FloridaDisaster.ORG. Retrieved Oct. 1, 2018, from https://floridadisaster.org/planprepare/disability/evacuations-and-shelters/shelter-information/what-to-take/
ORANGE COUNTY PEOPLE WITH SPECIAL NEEDS PROGRAM – FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS. Retrieved from http://www.orangecountyfl.net/portals/0/library/emergency-safety/docs/specialneedsprogramfaq.pdf
Emergency Medical Services; Housebound? Register For Evacuation Help. Orange County Government, Florida. Retrieved Oct. 1, 2018, from http://www.orangecountyfl.net/emergencysafety/emergencymedicalservices.aspx#.W7KvvntKj3h
Orange County Shelters. Orange County Government, Florida. Retrieved Oct. 1, 2018, from http://www.ocfl.net/EmergencySafety/Shelters.aspx#.W7KvL3tKj3h
Osceola County Special Needs Registry. Osceola County, Florida. Retrieved from https://snr.floridadisaster.org/Signin?client=osceola
Emergency Warning Systems: Prepare Seminole! Office of Emergency Management, Seminole County. Retrieved Sept. 28, 2018, from http://www.seminolecountyfl.gov/departments-services/county-managers-office/prepare-seminole/emergency-management/emergency-warning-systems.stml
Make a Plan: Prepare Seminole! Office of Emergency Management. Retrieved Oct. 1, 2018, from http://www.seminolecountyfl.gov/departments-services/county-managers-office/prepare-seminole/make-a-plan/index.stml
Make a Plan – Special Needs Plan: Prepare Seminole! Office of Emergency Management. Retrieved from http://www.seminolecountyfl.gov/departments-services/county-managers-office/prepare-seminole/make-a-plan/special-needs-plan.stml