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There’s a common saying in disaster planning, “It’s not a matter of if a disaster will take place; it’s a matter of when it will happen.”

Since 2004, National Preparedness Month has been observed each September in the U.S. to educate and empower Americans to prepare for and respond to all types of emergencies, including natural disasters and potential terrorist attacks.

This year’s preparedness campaign focuses on preparing older adults for disaster. Older adults can face greater risks in extreme weather events and emergencies, especially when living alone, are low-income, have a disability or live in rural areas.

One of the most important steps in preparation is to have emergency supplies on hand. The following are tips to help you or loved ones create an emergency kit.

Step 1: Consider how an emergency might affect your needs and plan accordingly.

It is crucial to consider what kinds of resources you use daily and what you might do if those resources are limited or unavailable.

Consider creating two kits. In one kit, put everything you need to stay where you are and make it on your own for several days. The other kit should be a lightweight, smaller version you can take with you if you need to leave your home.

Basic emergency supplies include water, food, pet food, a flashlight, a radio, batteries, a first aid kit and personal sanitation items (moist towelettes, garbage bags and plastic ties).

Step 2: Have medications and medical supplies readily available.

If you take medicine, have what you need to make it on your own for at least a week. You might not have access to a medical facility or drugstore during an emergency. Keep a copy of your prescriptions as well as dosage or treatment information.

If you undergo routine treatments administered by a clinic or hospital or if you receive regular services, such as home health care, treatment or transportation, talk to your service provider about their emergency plans.

Step 3: Keep extra essentials in your home.

If you use eyeglasses, hearing aids and hearing aid batteries, wheelchair batteries and oxygen, always have extras in your home. Also have copies of your medical insurance, Medicare or Medicaid cards readily available.

Step 4: Include copies of essential documents in your emergency supply kits.

Include family records (and contact information), wills, power of attorney documents, deeds, social security numbers, credit card and bank information, insurance cards and tax records. It is best to keep these documents in a waterproof container.

Emergencies, especially natural disasters, can often impact electricity services. Keep your local electric cooperative’s phone number handy and always avoid downed power lines. If you plan to operate a generator during a lengthy power outage, take steps now to ensure you follow all necessary precautions to use it safely. Your local electric co-op is an excellent resource for safety information.

Be prepared to adapt this information to your circumstances and make every effort to follow instructions from authorities on the scene. Above all, stay calm, be patient, and think before you act. With these simple preparations, you can be ready for the unexpected.

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Scott Meineke is the director of safety and loss control for the Iowa Association of Electric Cooperatives.

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