Storms and other extreme weather events can have a devastating impact on the lives of older Americans, affecting their homes, finances, and even their health long after the rain ceases and the snow melts.
The Recent Storms
On Tuesday, states across the U.S. were battered by storms, leaving approximately 196 million people affected by heavy rain, severe winds, thunderstorms, tornadoes, and snow, as reported by Axios. North Carolina, New Jersey, Kansas, Maryland, and Florida declared states of emergency in response.
The conditions have proven dangerous, resulting in the loss of at least four lives and the displacement of dozens more, according to NBC. Even as we approach Wednesday morning, approximately 370,000 people in the mid-Atlantic, over 100,000 in the Southeast, and nearly 97,000 in New England remain without power, as reported by PowerOutage.us which aggregates data from utility companies across the country.
Preparation is Key
In light of these events, it is crucial for all Americans to prepare themselves for such storms. However, older individuals may face additional challenges. It is important for them to be informed and proactive in safeguarding their well-being during and after a storm. Here are some strategies and tips to aid in their recovery:
Reimbursement after a Power Outage
If you find yourself without power for multiple days, you may be eligible for reimbursement from your utility company. In the aftermath of Tropical Storm Isaias in 2020, Con Edison – an electric and gas company servicing New York City and Westchester County – reimbursed customers for spoiled food and prescription medications due to lack of refrigeration. National Grid, a utility company in New York and Massachusetts, also offers reimbursements for food and prescription medications to customers experiencing power outages lasting longer than 72 consecutive hours, according to their website.
In the unfortunate event that your home sustains damage during a storm, it is crucial to document the extent of the damage for insurance purposes, as advised by the Red Cross. When seeking assistance from contractors or companies for home repairs, it is recommended to compare prices and choose one that is licensed and insured. Additionally, make sure to make payments as the work progresses rather than providing upfront payment, as recommended by the Department of Health and Human Service’s Administration for Community Living.
By taking these steps and being prepared, older individuals can minimize the impact of storms on their lives and recover more effectively.
Because disasters can affect mail service, it is recommended to sign up for electronic delivery of financial statements, including from programs such as Social Security, as well as direct deposit of any regular payments coming in. This can help prevent the possibility of stolen checks. There are two safe ways to receive federal benefits, according to Ready.gov, a campaign run by the Department of Homeland Security: by direct deposit to a checking or savings account, or through the use of the Direct Express prepaid debit card, which is specifically designed for federal benefits.
In the event of a disaster, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services offers assistance through the Emergency Prescription Assistance Program to help people refill their prescriptions.
For additional support and information regarding disasters, it is recommended to visit www.disasterassistance.gov, which provides information on federal assistance and benefits. Local emergency-management agencies may also have grant programs available to aid in disaster recovery. The Eldercare Locator, accessible through www.eldercare.acl.gov or by calling 1-800-677-1116, is a national campaign that offers resources and support on various issues related to older Americans.
Creating a Disaster Plan
It is crucial to have a plan in place in case of a storm or other natural disaster. The American Red Cross advises gathering emergency supplies such as food, medicine, and water, as well as ensuring that important documents, including medical, personal, and financial records, are stored in a secure location. It is also important to sign up for local emergency alerts and prepare for how to stay safe during a storm, including knowing where to evacuate if necessary and how to care for dependents or pets during that time.
The Greater Rochester Chapter of the American Red Cross has developed a comprehensive disaster-preparedness document "for seniors, by seniors," which includes a list of important contacts and essential considerations when creating a disaster plan.