Click here for emergency preparedness and hurricane response information

Emergency Preparedness

Get the latest information on 2017 Hurricanes.

Disasters, man-made or natural, can happen at anytime, anywhere, and vary in magnitude. Older adults and people with disabilities have unique and special needs during a crisis. Approximately half of those over age 65 have two or more chronic health problems, such as heart disease, diabetes, and Alzheimer’s disease. These conditions increase a person’s vulnerability during periods of time without food, water, shelter, and adequate rest. People with disabilities have some of the same needs as older adults, but they may also have a wider variety of functional limitations, sometimes requiring more supports, many of which could likely be in short supply during a crisis event.

It is critical that individuals, service providers, and communities actively engage in emergency planning. Each person has a responsibility to prepare for potential crisis and make a plan for how to respond. Providers of long-term services and supports must train staff in all emergency actions (evacuation, lock-down, shelter-in-place). Community leaders and first-responders must be prepared to support the health and safety needs of older adults and people with disabilities, engage these populations in the planning process, and—to the maximum extent possible—provide services and supports in integrated Functional Needs Support Shelters.

The only way to ensure the well-being of older adults and people with disabilities during a crisis is through a “whole-community” approach to preparedness. For information and resources about how to support the needs of older adults and people of all ages with disabilities during an emergency, click on the links below.

Individual Preparedness: Best Practices and and Resources

Older adults, people with disabilities, and caregivers can take steps to prepare for emergencies. The majority of older adults and people with disabilities live in the community. Many live alone, but require long-term services and supports in order to reside in the community.  . Without the appropriate contingencies, mobility limitations, the need for battery or electrically powered medical devices or durable medical equipment or other functional considerations could negatively impact a person during a crisis.  However, by examining each person’s unique needs, it is possible to create person-centered plans that accommodate these needs and maximize independence.

At a minimum, each individual (with the assistance of his or her caregiver, if necessary) should create a kit of emergency necessities. This should include medication, food, water, batteries or chargers, and any supplies that pets or service animals may need. Individuals should also talk to friends, family, and neighbors to create a support network that can help with communication, transportation, and essential care during periods of time when other community-based services and supports are not available. If available, they should learn the locations of the nearest Functional Needs Support Shelters appropriate to their needs.

Ready.gov: Emergency Management Resources for Seniors

ACL National Family Caregiver Support Program-Just in Case Emergency Readiness for Older Adults and Caregivers

CDC Emergency Preparedness for Older Adults

CDC Emergency Preparedness for People with Disabilities

CMS Emergency Preparedness Checklist

Emergency Preparedness Resources for People with Disabilities from the Research and Training Center on Independent Living

NIH National Institute on Aging: Disaster Planning and Response for Caregivers of People with Alzheimer's Disease

SAMHSA Disaster Distress Hotline (1-800-985-5990)

FEMA Mobile App for phones and tablets

Red Cross Disaster Apps for phones and tablets

Service Provider Preparedness: Best Practices and Resources

Hospitals, nursing homes, and other providers of long-term services and supports face unique obstacles during a crisis. They are frequently called upon to provide leadership during and after a disaster. And they must make response plans for the safety of their service recipients and staff, during an emergency. Those plans must include well-tested transportation procedures should an evacuation become necessary.

It is essential that all staff members know their roles and responsibilities in the service provider’s emergency response plans—especially during an evacuation. Emergency management plans should be reviewed and tested on a regular basis to build in redundancies, identify gaps, and develop strategies to mitigate any shortcomings.

Many types of providers are required to develop emergency response plan standards for licensure or certification. In addition to these requirements, collaboration with other agencies and participation in community-wide drills and exercises can further ensure that the service provider’s emergency plans are integrated with response efforts at all levels. It is also important to ensure that backup power generators are available and in working order, transportation plans are in place for evacuation, and that policies are in place for emergency communications with relatives of care recipients.

CMS Emergency Preparedness Checklist: Recommended Tool for Effective Health Care Facility Planning

CMS Emergency Preparedness Checklist: Recommended Tool for Persons in LTC Facilities & Their Family Members, Friends, Personal Caregivers, Guardians & Long-Term Care Ombudsmen

"Healthcare Preparedness Capabilities: National Guidance for Healthcare System Preparedness”, Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response (ASPR), Hospital Preparedness Program (HPP), January 2012

Public Health Emergency (PHE.gov) Videos

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Emergency Power Facility Assessment Tool and Informational Videos

ASPR Planning for Power Outages: A Guide for Hospitals and Healthcare Facilities

Community Preparedness: Best Practices and Resources

Older adults and people with disabilities are frequently overlooked during the disaster planning, response, and recovery process. Emergency management planning must integrate older adults and people with disabilities of all ages—and their caregivers—into every aspect of community emergency planning, response, and recovery. They should also be included in plan development through public meetings and efforts should be undertaken to hold meetings close to public transportation and at hours when public transportation is in service. Shelters should be surveyed and supplies should be obtained to ensure that they are accessible to older adults, as well as people with disabilities and functional supports needs.

In order to do this, it is critical that officials take a “whole-community” approach when considering the needs of older adults and people with disabilities during and after a crisis. Key players include hospitals, local providers of long-term services and supports, the Area Agencies on Aging, the Centers for Independent Living, Protection & Advocacy organizations, Developmental Disability Councils, Long-Term Care Ombudsman programs, and the Aging and Disability Resource Centers. These organizations should be included in the coordination, planning, and executing of joint exercises with state and local law enforcement and first responders to increase the likelihood that all community members will be considered and protected during an emergency.

Ready.gov: Community Preparedness

Identifying Vulnerable Older Adults and Legal Options for Increasing Their Protection During All-Hazards Emergencies: A Cross-Sector Guide for States and Communities

CDC Public Health Preparedness Capabilities: National Standards for State and Local Planning, 2011

ASPR Healthcare Preparedness Capabilities: National Guidance for Healthcare System Preparedness

National Health Security Strategy Implementation Plan (2012)

FEMA Guide to Planning Personal Assistance Services in General Population Shelters

FEMA Guidance on Planning for Integration of Functional Needs Support Services in General Population Shelters


Last modified on 09/15/2017


Back to Top