Preparing the Most Vulnerable for the Worst-Case Scenario

MACo Winter Conference attendees hear guidance and best practices for preparing older adults for a disaster or emergency in their counties.

Jim Bass and JoAnne Knapp listen as Delegate Arentz introduces a panel discussion on preparedness for older adults.

JoAnne Knapp and Jim Bass joined the MACo Winter Conference to provide expert advice and county best practices in emergency preparedness for older adults.

Knapp spoke about methods of reaching older adults, noting how text messaging and text alerts can improve our ability to reach them. Knapp is the former Director of Emergency Preparedness for the Maryland State Department of Disabilities.

On the subject of planning for emergencies, Knapp stressed the need for individualized preparedness. She said,

Older adults need to have their own disaster plan.

A first step of making a plan is a self-assessment of needs. Self-assessment questions include:

  1. Can you evacuate on your own?
  2. Do you have a neighbor who can assist you or check on you?
  3. Do you have an area in your home where you can shelter-in-place?

Knapp stressed that shelters are a last resort, stating,

Shelters are a life boat, not a cruise ship.

Jim Bass described the need to involve the whole community in emergency planning, noting,

If only you know your plan, that is not enough.

Bass is Talbot County’s Emergency Management Coordinator. Bass described a work group in Talbot County that provides input into functional needs for all county departments, and collaborates with emergency management to address the range of the whole community’s needs in a disaster.

Bass described how Talbot County’s Department of Emergency Services keeps a functional needs registry within their mass notification system through software provider everbridge. Through the system, residents can self identify themselves with specific functional needs, such as mobility impairment, for example. Talbot County can then send a message to all of those residents in advance of an emergency.

Audience members asked questions regarding mass notification, and transportation needs throughout the state. Knapp stated that preparing is an individual responsibility, and encouraging personal planning is the best way to chip away at the state’s larger emergency preparedness needs.