Emergency preparedness: What to seniors say? Toni Morris-Oswald, University of Manitoba

Emergency preparedness:
What to seniors say?
What do they (and we) need to know?
Toni Morris-Oswald, University of Manitoba
John Lindsay, Brandon University
May 7th 2007
Understanding emergencies
Understanding our hazards and our disasters
Vulnerability – at the heart of emergencies
A brief comment on emergency management
in Canada
Finding a balance for safe communities
Hazards, disasters and us
We must come to understand disasters as social
‘events’ during which communities’ normal
capacities are overwhelmed.
This leads us to see hazards as the potential
interaction of our natural, social and built
environments that can result in disasters.
In both concepts it is our community that is key,
not the causal agent.
Older persons and emergency planning
…some prevailing views
Older persons are a homogeneous population
The reality
Older persons are on a continuum of
Emergency planning should be done for older
The reality
-Planning should be done with seniors
-Seniors can best articulate their needs
Prevailing views cont’d
Emphasis on psychological recovery postdisaster
The reality
-Need to also focus on economic
recovery where older persons fare
worse than the more youthful
-Resources for recovery are
Better approaches to preparedness
Evaluate capacities and needs of a spectrum of
older persons
Include older persons in emergency planning
and preparation
Don’t make unsubstantiated assumptions – ask
seniors and their care providers!
Contributions of older adults in
emergency preparedness, response, and
Older persons are able to assist in specific ways
 Identifying and assisting other at-risk seniors
 Advocating for seniors’ needs
Seniors’ contributions during an event
Delivering food, supplies, information and
Peer support
Sharing life experience / perspective
‘Community emergency response’ teams
Characterizing emergencies and
Require action to protect people and/or
May require evacuation of high risk
Result in
Reduction in normal services
Limited resources/need for specialized resources
New roles and responsibilities for organizations
New communication patterns
Unexpected challenges
How can the needs of seniors be
addressed in such an environment?
Planning and preparedness before an event
Planning at multiple scales
 Individual
 Family
 Community
 Broader
Individual preparedness and responsibility
Faulty assumption
 Emergency management organizations alone can
manage a disaster
The reality
 Emergency preparedness and response plans cannot
 guarantee every individual’s safety
 predict how events will unfold
 function effectively without individual and
community assistance
Individual preparedness and responsibility
All persons, and particularly vulnerable persons,
must know
 what their own capabilities are
 what their specific needs are
 the capacities of their local community to assist
…in other words, a fundamental level of
preparedness lies with the individual
Personal emergency plans:
 Individualized – particular needs identified
 Developed in consultation with
 family or friends
 an involved agency (public /private)
 Focus on existing resources and independence
 Prepare back up plans
 Adopt an ‘all-hazards’ approach
 Try to anticipate needs and challenges
Questions to assist older persons in
plan preparation
Will you be able to receive warning in a sudden
emergency situation?
Can you manage if there is a power outage for
several days?
If no evacuation required, do you have the
supplies you need to be self sufficient?
In an emergency, are there people who will know
to check on you?
If evacuation is necessary…
Have you developed an emergency / disaster
‘kit’ containing special provisions and
important papers?
Have you planned where you would go if you
must evacuate or if you lose your home?
Do you have a plan to get to your alternative
Does the alternate shelter have what you need?
Questions cont’d
If you were separated from loved ones, how
would emergency personnel be able to get
crucial medical and other information?
Is there someone else who is dependent upon
Community responsibility for
preparedness of older persons
Vulnerable persons’ preparation is intimately
tied to community preparation
It is a joint responsibility (individual-community)
Effective emergency management capitalizes
existing resources of the community (social
resources, economic resources etc.)
 local communication networks
Emergency planning and risk assessment
is a community problem needing
community solutions!
Communities must identify
People - where they are and what are their
What are the hazards with the greatest
probability of occurrence?
Planning for the elderly population
To plan effectively to assist older persons
 Communities must work with emergency managers
 Get trained and sensitized to issues of the elderly
 Determine which organizations can identify and
assess which older persons are at risk
 Coordinate agencies to maximize resources and
funding in planning and response
 Consider developing a registry of older persons as
one option for tracking important information –but who pays????
Planning activities at a community level
In advance of an event
 Public education on preparation, response and
recovery processes
 A registry of vulnerable citizens
 Prepare a database of key information and
requirements (medications, medical needs,
special needs, contact people)
Community level planning cont’d
Utilize community organizations that provide
services to older persons
Local organizations serving the elderly need
 Continuity planning
 Recovery planning
Communicating under a disaster
Technology use must be appropriate
 Information must be communicated in
many ways / forms
 Capitalize upon local communication
 Cultural and language differences must be
(in part after A. Cahill, Planning tools you can use to meet the needs of people with disabilities in an emergency: what
to do, what not to do, and what difference does it make, 2006 )
Communication strategies
Public service announcements to encourage
checks on vulnerable neighbors / friends
Hotlines for older persons specifically
Lists of essential services made available to
older persons
Volunteers to follow up in-person with older
Older persons : lessons from past disasters
Identify the at-risk, especially socially isolated /
 Communication – must be timely, appropriate; barriers
must be overcome
 Challenges posed by low incomes / lack of financial
Evacuation a key problem
 Lack of resources
 Knowledge of the evacuation process often inadequate
 Those with physical or sensory limitations need particular
 Transportation problems are multiple and increase
Remaining at home during a disaster:
challenges for older adults
1) Power outages
 Impact life support equipment / electric
wheelchairs etc.
 Reduce access to potable water
 Food safety compromised
 Communication issues
2) Regular assistance/care is compromised
(in part after L. Fernandez et al., Frail elderly as disaster victims: emergency management strategies, 2002)
Resistance to evacuation
Reasons older persons may resist
 They need to believe that they will be supported in
 Fear loss of independence and placement in an
institutional setting
 Concern for pets and service dogs
 Past experience impacts perception of the risk
 Resist abandoning valued possessions
 Feel they can’t start over if they leave
 May have less information about the risk
(in part after B. Phillips, Evacuation : Why Don’t (or Can’t) People Leave? 2006)
Evacuation challenges for elderly
Multiple changes in residence
Confusion / disorientation with change in surroundings
Language / cultural issues
Stress impacts resulting in irregular eating and medicine
Daily needs not met – regular care – logistical issues
Older adults
 Need to be connected with community life
 Have a strong need for social support to mitigate
Emergency management system must
incorporate older vulnerable persons into
planning at all levels – federal, provincial and
local government
Individuals and communities must also prepare
Logistical issues must be addressed in advance
of an event i.e. provision of needed
supplies/services ; sheltering of vulnerable
populations etc.
Biggest challenges
Emergency management is not popular
Lack of clarity around who is responsible and
Who will demand improved emergency
preparedness and management for older
$$$$ Who will pay?
Shifting the Focus of
Emergency Management
Hazards/ Threats
Single Agency
Science Driven
Crisis Management
Plan for
Communicate to
Risk Management
Plan with
Communicate with
after Salter, cited in Pearce, L. 2003 Public Participation and Sustainable Hazards
Emergency Management
Canada’s emergency management system has
been chronically under funded and unsupported
in pursuing these principles.
Federal efforts have been consistently derailed
by reorganization.
Provincial and municipal activities are limited by
budget constraints.
There is an expectation gap between what
people expect the government to be able to do
and what it really can achieve in disasters.
There is also a gap between what the
government expects the public to take on by
themselves and what they are prepared for.
Shifting Responsibilities
Emergency management has been placing more
emphasis on public preparedness and individual
There is also increasing attention focused on
vulnerability or “special populations”.
The challenge is to find a balance that will see
the right services meeting our needs.
Finding a Balance
Key references
Cahill, A., 2006. Planning tools you can use to meet the needs of people with disabilities in an
emergency: what to do, what not to do, and what difference does it make. Working Conference
on Emergency Management and Individuals with Disabilities and the Elderly,
Washington. June 28-30, 2006. http:// www. add-em-conf-com/presentations.htm
Fernandez, L., Byard, D., Chien-Chien, L., Benson, S., Barbera, J.A., 2002. Frail Elderly as
Disaster Victims: Emergency Management Strategies. Prehospital and Disaster Medicine
Vol 17, No.2.
Gibson, M..J., 2006. We Can Do Better: Lessons Learned for Protecting Older Persons in Disasters.
AARP Public Policy Institute. Washington, D.C.
Lindsay, J., Hall, M., 2006. Older persons in emergency and disaster: a case study of the 1997
Manitoba Flood. Department of Applied Disaster and Emergency Studies, Brandon
Pearce, L. 2003. Disaster Management and Community Planning, and Public Participation: How to
Achieve Sustainable Hazard Mitigation. Natural Hazards 28 (2-3), 211-228.
Phillips, B., 2006. Evacuation : Why Don’t (or Can’t) People Leave? Working Conference on
Emergency Management and Individuals with Disabilities and the Elderly,
Washington. June 28-30, 2006. http: //www. add-em-conf-com/presentations.htm
Questions & Comments
John Lindsay
Department of Applied Disaster and Emergency Studies
Brandon University
(204) 571-8555 lindsayj@brandonu.ca
Toni Morris-Oswald
University of Manitoba
(204) 474-8373