COLUMBUS - The forecast for the next several days looks more like January than November and is a not-so-subtle reminder that winter is coming. The Ohio Department of Aging joins the Ohio Committee for Severe Weather Awareness in promoting Nov. 16-22, 2014, as Winter Safety Awareness Week, and encourages older Ohioans and their caregivers to take steps now to prepare for winter's worst.
"About the only thing you can predict about an Ohio winter is that it will be unpredictable," said Bonnie K. Burman, director of the Ohio Department of Aging. "As we age, it often becomes harder for us to adapt to extreme and changing weather conditions. That's why planning ahead and being prepared is so important. Ensuring the safety of Ohio's most vulnerable residents is our plan, and we ask that you have a plan, too."
To make sure you're ready for winter, have a plan that will allow you to remain in place for at least three days should you be unable to leave your home due to weather conditions:
- Emergency Supplies - Create an emergency kit that contains: a battery operated radio, a flashlight, extra batteries, a signaling device (such as a loud whistle, horn or bell), food that you can open and prepare easily, water (one gallon per person per day), extra blankets and a first aid kit. Make sure you have access to a phone that will work if the electricity goes out.
- Medications - Keep a backup supply of the medications you take every day (check expiration dates every couple of months and replace if necessary). Ask your doctors for extra copies of your prescriptions for your emergency kit. Have an ice chest on hand and keep ice packs in the freezer for medications that need to be kept cool. Keep a backup stash of medical supplies such as bandages, alcohol, etc.
- Equipment and Assistive Devices - Make sure your medical equipment and assistive devices (such as canes, walkers, wheelchairs, lifts, oxygen tanks, etc.) are easy to locate in an emergency. Have spare batteries or non-powered options for any equipment that will not work if there is no electricity. Keep written instructions on how to operate and move your medical and adaptive equipment in your kit.
- Readiness - Know where the main valves and switches are for gas, water and electricity, and make sure you can operate them. Have at least one fire extinguisher and know how to use it. Designate a safe place to go (such as a friend or neighbor's house or shelter) and have a plan for getting there if it becomes unsafe to stay in your home.
- Reasonable accommodations - Be prepared to quickly explain to rescue personnel how to move you or help you move safely and rapidly (e.g., "take my oxygen tank," "get my insulin from the refrigerator").
(Adapted from "Emergency Management Be-Prepared Kit," available at www.disabilityrightsohio.org)
The Ohio Department of Aging works with the state's 12 area agencies on aging to make sure that each community has a plan for assisting older adults during weather emergencies. Your area agency can also help you identify resources, such as energy assistance, chore service and minor home repairs, that can help you stay warm and safe this winter. Call 1-866-243-5678 to be connected to the agency serving your community, or visit www.aging.ohio.gov for local contacts.
Follow the Ohio Department of Aging on Facebook or Twitter all winter long for periodic updates from us and our state agency partners about changing weather conditions, emergencies and resources. The Ohio Committee for Severe Weather Awareness has information and resources about winter weather at www.weathersafety.ohio.gov.
About ODA - The Ohio Department of Aging works to ensure that Ohio is on the leading edge of innovation in responding to the growing and changing aging population. We work with state agencies, area agencies on aging and other local partners to help integrate aging needs into local plans and ensure that aging Ohioans have access to a wide array of high-quality services and supports that are person-centered in policy and practice. Our programs include the PASSPORT Medicaid waiver, the long-term care ombudsman program, the Golden Buckeye Card and more. Visit www.aging.ohio.gov.
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