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In an emergency, only together can we ensure the safety of everyone Bookmark

In an emergency, only together can we ensure the safety of everyone

By Beverley L. Laubert, Director, Ohio Department of Aging

Are you and your family truly prepared for an emergency, such as severe weather, natural disaster or act of violence? Do you believe your community is prepared? Each September, the Ohio Department of Aging joins the Ohio Emergency Management Agency (EMA) and organizations across America to observe National Preparedness Month.

People of all ages can ensure the health and safety of themselves and their loved ones by having a disaster plan in place and creating an emergency kit with the supplies you may need should the worst happen. Your community should have a disaster plan, as well, and most Ohio communities do. The Department of Aging and our partners in the aging network work with the Ohio EMA and local partners to make sure those plans consider the needs and preferences of older adults.

Beverley Laubert, Director, Ohio Department of AgingThe aging network has a key role in emergency responses around the state and, under Governor Kasich’s direction, has worked hard over the past several years to improve the ability of communities to ensure the safety of our elders.

Early last year, a large water main break in Portsmouth put a boil advisory in place, leaving more than 5,000 consumers without drinking water. The area agency on aging coordinated with the water company, local media and city management to help ensure that older adults in the affected area were aware of the situation and that resources were available to assist them. Case managers ensured that all their consumers had drinking water, while other staff worked with the county health department, county EMA, area senior centers and local fire departments and emergency medical services to ensure all older adults in the impacted area had access to bottled water.

In another example, an eight-story senior living high rise in Columbus lost power while a heat advisory was in effect last September. Most residents were able to evacuate the building to access fresh water and to cool down but returning to their homes was difficult for many with the elevator out of service. Area agency on aging case managers visited consumers who lived in the building and worked with the apartment manager to plan for continued services. Staff also worked with the regional long-term care ombudsman, shelters, first responders and local transportation companies to ensure all building residents were safe through the duration of the outage.

This past winter in Steubenville, a water main break interrupted service to a local nursing home for a couple of days. In addition to lacking drinkable water for residents, the facility also needed to add a gallon of water to the boiler every hour to heat the building. Local long-term care ombudsman staff visited with residents and checked in with facility staff regularly to make sure residents felt the temperature in the home was comfortable, and that they were being served meals and snacks along with plenty of water for drinking. Ombudsmen also checked that appropriate accommodations were made for bathing and that the residents were safe.

These are just a few examples of the aging network, the ombudsman program and local public safety networks planning and working together to protect their older neighbors.

The Ohio Department of Aging and the Ohio EMA recently gathered agency and regional long-term care ombudsman staff to develop disaster response plans. Using scenarios from actual emergencies, participants brainstormed strategies to respond in each situation. The session helped form a common understanding of the critical information that needs to be shared during a disaster and established best practices between aging network partners.

Being prepared and helping elders to be ready is one way we carry out one of our core values – to promote independence and remaining healthy in their own homes and communities. Visit www.ready.ohio.gov for disaster preparedness resources for individuals, families and communities. Also, visit our “Safe at Home” webpage to learn about resources available through the aging network and state partners to help you and your loved ones be safe and healthy.



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