Disaster Preparedness Tips for Seniors

The California Department of Aging (CDA) administers programs that serve older adults, adults with disabilities, family caregivers, and residents in long-term care facilities throughout the State. These services are provided locally by contracted agencies. For information and assistance in your area call 1-800-510-2020.

Tips for Coping with a Flood

  • If a flood is likely in your area, you should:
    • Listen to the radio or television for information.
    • Be aware of rivers, streams, drainage channels, canyons and other areas known to flood suddenly. Flash floods can occur in these areas with or without such typical warnings as rain clouds or heavy rain.
  • If you must prepare to evacuate, you should do the following:
    • Secure your home. If you have time, move essential items to an upper floor.
    • Call a family member or neighbor to help you.
    • Turn off utilities at the main switches or valves if instructed to do so. Disconnect electrical appliances. Do not touch electrical equipment if you are wet or standing in water.
  • If you have to leave your home, remember these evacuation tips:
    • Do not walk through moving water. Six inches of moving water can make you fall. If you have to walk in water, walk where the water is not moving. Use a stick to check the firmness of the ground in front of you.
    • Do not drive into flooded areas. If floodwaters rise around your car, abandon the car and move to higher ground if you can do so safely. You and the vehicle can be quickly swept away.
    • Stay away from downed power lines and report them to the power company.
    • Keep a list of medications, allergies, special equipment, names and numbers of doctors, pharmacists and family members along with eyeglasses, medication and walking aids. Have them ready to take with you.

Tips for Coping with Hot Weather

Summer heat, especially extreme heat, can create unhealthy conditions for many. For information on cooling centers in your community call 1-800-952-5210.

  • Plenty of fluids - During hot weather, you will need to drink even if you don’t feel thirsty. Seniors often lose their sense of thirst as they age. Avoid drinks containing alcohol or caffeine as they can cause you to loose fluids. Consult with your doctor if you or a family member have been prescribed a fluid-restricted diet or diuretics.
  • Wear appropriate Clothing and Sunscreen - Choose lightweight, light-colored, loose-fitting clothing. In the hot sun, a wide-brimmed hat will keep your head cool. Sunburn affects your body’s ability to cool itself and causes a loss of body fluids, so when outdoors, use a sunscreen of SPF 15 or higher.
  • Stay Cool Indoors - The most efficient way to beat the heat is to stay in a cool area. If you do not have an air conditioner or evaporative cooling unit, consider a visit to a mall or public library for a few hours. A cool shower or bath is also an effective way to cool off. Open your windows to cooling breezes or, particularly in the evening.
  • Use a Buddy System - Those with special sensitivity to the heat, such as children, the frail elderly and individuals on certain medications, should be prepared for power outages. If you are especially vulnerable to heat, have a friend or relative call to check on you twice a day.
  • Use Common Sense - Avoid strenuous activities during the hottest part of the day, usually mid to late afternoon. Avoid hot foods and heavy meals. Never leave infants, children, elderly or disabled persons or pets in a car. Bring your pets indoors with you to protect them. Give your outdoor animals plenty of fresh water, leave the water in a shady area and consider wetting the animal down.

Tips for Coping with Winter

  • Wear trousers, sweat pants, tights or leg warmers.
  • Layer on shirts and a wool sweater or wear a jacket under a warm coat.
  • Don't forget a wool or synthetic hat; your body loses heat through your head; cover your head.
  • Mittens are warmer than gloves; they keep the fingers together.
  • In very cold weather wear polypropylene liners to give extra warmth and draw sweat away from the body.
  • Keep dry. Change wet clothing to prevent a loss of body heat.
  • Be sure to let your electric utility company know in advance if loss of electricity cold create an immediate threat to life or safety.
  • Ask as friend or relative to check on you, twice a day during -exceptionally cold weather.
  • Listen to the media for current information. Keep a battery-powered radio available with a set of extra batteries.
  • A cordless telephone won't work in a blackout. Be sure you have a standard phone that plugs directly into a phone jack. A cellular phone is another option.
  • Keep a flashlight and backup batteries within easy reach.
  • Store a 10 days supply of prescriptions medications and a list of your emergency contact numbers in the same location.
  • Temporarily close off heat to some rooms.
  • Watch for signs of hypothermia. These include uncontrollable shivering, memory loss, disorientation, incoherence, slurred speech, drowsiness, and apparent exhaustion, if detected, get the victim to a warm location, and put the person in dry clothing. Wrap their entire body in a blanket. Warm the center of the body first by giving warm beverages if the victim is conscious. Get medical help as soon as possible.

Disaster Preparedness for Pets

If you are like millions of animal owners across the country, your pet is an important member of your household. The best way to protect your pet from the effects of a disaster is to have a disaster plan that includes planning for your pet whether you stay at home or evacuate. If you evacuate, leaving your pets behind is likely to result in their being injured, lost or worse. The single most important thing you can do to protect your pets is to take them with you. However, it is important to understand that many public shelters, including the Red Cross, cannot accept pets (except for service animals). So, plan ahead to take your pets to a safe place.


  • Plan Ahead for Shelter:
    • Ensure your pet wears an up-to-date ID at all times. Include a phone number for a friend or relative outside your immediate area.
    • Plan ahead to make sure you have a place to take your pets.
    • Contact hotels and motels outside your area to check policies for accepting pets in an emergency. Identify boarding facilities and veterinary offices that might shelter animals. Keep a list and call ahead for reservations as soon as you think you might need to evacuate.
    • Ask friends and relatives outside your area if they could keep your pets
    • If you have more than one pet, be prepared to shelter them separately.
  • Assemble a Disaster Pet Supply Kit - Keep essential supplies in an accessible place, in sturdy containers. Include:
    • Sturdy leashes, harnesses and a crate or carrier.
    • Medications, medical records and phone number of veterinarian in a waterproof container and a first aid kit.
    • 3 day supply of food and potable water, bowls, cat litter/pan, and can opener.
    • Current photos of your pets (if they get lost).
    • Pet beds and toys if easily transported
  • As a Disaster Approaches:
    • Pay attention to disaster alerts and warnings. Take steps to protect your pet at the first sign of a disaster.
    • Call to confirm emergency shelter arrangements for you and your pets.
    • Check you pet disaster supplies and make sure they are ready to go.
    • Bring all pets into the house so you don’t have to search for them if you must leave in a hurry.
    • If possible, arrange in advance for a neighbor or pet sitter to take your pets if your are not at home.
    • Attach the name and number of your emergency phone to your pets collar/ID tag.


  • Reaching Shelter and After the Disaster:
    • Remember animals react differently under stress.
    • Outside your home and in the car, keep dogs securely leashed or in their crate. Transport cats in carriers.
    • Don’t leave your pets unattended anywhere they can run off (pets may panic, hide, try to escape, bite or scratch).
    • Give your pets time to get back into their routines once they return home.
    • Don’t allow your pets to roam loose. Familiar landmarks and smells may be gone and your pet could become disoriented and lost.
  • Birds:
    • Transport birds in a secure travel cage or carrier.
    • In cold weather, wrap a blanket around the cage and warm up the car before putting birds inside.
    • During warm weather carry a mister and mist your bird’s feathers.
    • Do not put water inside cage during transport.
    • Provide birds with a few slices of fruit and vegetables having high water content.
    • Have a photo identification and leg bands.
    • Keep the carrier in a quiet area and don’t let the birds out.
  • Reptiles:
    • Snakes can be transported in a pillowcase but must be placed in more secure housing upon reaching your destination.
    • Carry the food your snake will need.
    • Take a large heating pad and water bowl for soaking.
    • For transport of house lizards follow the directions for birds.

If you can’t take your pets with you do not leave them chained outdoors or roaming free. Bring them inside and leave them in a room with no windows but with adequate ventilation (laundry room, garage, etc). House cats and dog separately, even if they usually get along. Only leave dry foods and fresh water in non-spill or auto feed containers. (Consider leaving food your pets are not wild about to prevent bingeing) Place a sticker on a door indicating the number of animals inside.

Prepare for Earthquake

  • Before an Earthquake:
    • Eliminate hazards. Make it as easy as possible to get under a sturdy table or desk for protection.
    • Secure special equipment such as telephones and tanks of oxygen.
    • Keep a list of medications, allergies, special equipment, names and numbers of doctors, pharmacists and family members. Make sure you have the list with you at all times.
    • Keep an extra pair of eyeglasses and medication with your emergency supplies.
    • Keep walking aids near you at all times. Have extra walking aids in different rooms of the house.
    • Put a security light in each room. These lights plug into any outlet and light up automatically if power goes out. They operate for four to six hours and your can turn them off by hand.
    • Make sure you have a whistle to signal for help.
    • Keep extra batteries for hearing aids with your emergency supplies. Remember to replace them annually.
    • Keep extra emergency supplies at your bedside.
    • Find two people to check on you after an earthquake. Tell them your special needs, how to operate equipment you use and where you keep emergency supplies.
    • Prepare to be self sufficient for three days.
  • During & After an Earthquake:
    • If you are in bed or sitting down, do not get up.
    • If you are standing, duck and cover or sit down. You could be thrown to the floor if you are standing.
    • Turn on your portable radio for instructions and news reports. For your safety, cooperate fully with public safety officials and instructions.
    • Prepare for aftershocks by staying in a safe location.
    • If you evacuate, leave a message at your home telling family members and others where you can be found.

Prepare for Power Outages

  • If a flood is likely in your area, you should:
    • Listen to the media for current information on affected areas. Have a battery-operated radio available with an extra set of batteries.
    • When an electrical outage does occur, turn off all appliances, computers, and all lights but one. That light will indicate when power has been restored.
    • Keep a flashlight or lantern equipped with fresh batteries within easy reach. For people with limited reach or grasp, inexpensive battery-operated touch lamps are a good option. Such lights can be installed in areas of greatest use, and are small enough to be carried in an emergency. Do not use candles for heat or light, as they can be a fire hazard.
    • Have a 10-day supply of prescription medications and durable medical goods and store them in a convenient location. A copy of emergency contact numbers and current prescriptions should be stored in the same location.
    • Keep your refrigerator and freezer doors closed. Refrigerated foods should remain safe to eat for several hours, and frozen foods should remain safe for an extended period. If in doubt about the safety of any food, throw it out.
    • Find out what kind of telephone you have. If it is a cordless phone, it will not work during a power outage. Make plans to use an older telephone that just plugs into the wall. A cellular telephone or access to a nearby pay phone is also a good option.
    • Be sure you know how to open your garage door if the power goes out.
  • If you are dependent on electrically powered breathing machines or other life-sustaining medical equipment:
    • Work with your doctor, case managers and caregivers to develop a plan on what you will do if the power goes out.
    • Make sure you have backup batteries or generators available.
    • Contact the local electrical utility company and local public safety agencies in advance, if lack of electricity would create an immediate threat to life or safety.
    • Ensure that your house numbers are readily visible from the street to expedite emergency response
    • If you or any member of your family has a life-threatening emergency, call 911.

What to do in a Wildfire

  • Before the Fire Approaches Your House:
    • Evacuate. Evacuate your pets and all family members. Anyone with medical or physical limitations and the elderly should be evacuated immediately.
    • Wear protective clothing.
    • Close vents, windows, doors, pet doors etc. Remove flammable drapes and curtains. Close all shutters, blinds or heavy window coverings to reduce radiant heat.
    • Close inside doors/open damper but close the fireplace screen.
    • Shut off Gas, propane or fuel oil supplies at the source.
    • Disconnect any automatic garage door openers so that doors can still be opened by hand if the power goes out. Close all garage doors.
    • Place valuable papers, mementos and anything "You can’t live without" inside the car in the garage, ready for quick departure. Any pets still with you should also be put in the car. Don’t forget your medications, glasses or other assistive devices.
    • Turn on outside lights and leave a light on in every room to make the house more visible in heavy smoke.
    • Don’t Lock Up. Leave doors and windows closed but unlocked. It may be necessary for firefighters to gain quick entry into your home to fight fire. The entire area will be isolated and patrolled by sheriff’s deputies or police.
    • If you are trapped at home, stay calm. As the fire front approaches, go inside the house. You can survive inside. The fire will pass before your house burns down.
  • Survival in a Vehicle:
    • This is dangerous and should only be done in an emergency, but you can survive the firestorm if you stay in your car. It is much less dangerous than trying to run from a fire on foot. Roll up windows and close air vents. Drive slowly with headlights on. Watch for other vehicles and do not drive through heavy smoke. If you have to stop, park away from the heaviest trees and brush. Turn the headlights on and ignition off.
    • Get on the floor and cover up with a blanket or coat. Stay in the vehicle until the main fire passes. Stay in the car. Do not run!
  • If Caught in the Open:
    • The best temporary shelter is a depression in a sparse fuel area. Clear fuel from the area while the fire is approaching, lie face down in the depression and cover yourself. If a road is nearby, lie face down along the road cut or in the ditch on the uphill side. Cover yourself with anything that will shield you from the fire’s heat.