Unnecessary Tragedy Reminds Us of Importance of Disaster Planning

The widespread destruction caused by Hurricane Irma, following closely on the heels of Hurricane Harvey, again reminds us of the necessity of planning for natural disasters. The extraordinary planning and evacuation efforts by professionals and individuals across Florida helped to reduce the loss of life from Irma. Millions of people have been impacted, including hundreds of GSA members across the region. Our thoughts and prayers are with all affected as they begin the long process of rebuilding. (The American Red Cross continues to accept donations to help those affected.)

The tragedy that unfolded following the loss of power at a Florida nursing home reinforces what we know — older adults are among the most vulnerable when a natural disaster strikes. It appears that timely action could have prevented these deaths.

These hurricanes have prompted the Senate Aging Committee to schedule a hearing, "Disaster Preparedness and Response: The Special Needs of Older Americans," on Wednesday, September 20, at 9 a.m. EDT to examine policies and procedures for sheltering in place, evacuating, and relocating the most vulnerable citizens before disaster strikes. The hearing will review what has been learned from past experience and what more can be done to ensure the health, safety, and resilience of older Americans during and after disasters, such as hurricanes.

GSA has been in touch with committee staffers to let them know about the experts inside the GSA membership who could provide valuable insight on these issues.

I encourage all GSA members to check out the two webinars developed by GSA’s Interest Group on Disasters & Older Adults. While you may not need this information now, it’s good to know about these resources should you need them in the future. You can also alert other GSA members who may benefit from this information as new potential natural disasters unfold. The webinars cover how to do disaster planning and how to support the recovery of older adults after a disaster.

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