Aging Well: Be responsible by preparing for emergencies


Family emergency plan

■ Step 1: Buy or make an emergency evacuation kit. Consider a scaled-down version for the car and a kit for pets.

■ Step 2: Develop a plan. Designate two meeting places — one should be near the home in case of immediate threat such as fire, and a second outside of your neighborhood if family members cannot return home. Designate emergency contacts (phone and email) outside the region to increase the chances of successful communication if local telephone or cellphone lines are not fully operational.

■ Step 3: Be informed. Make sure someone in the household has been trained in first aid and prepare emergency contact cards that can be kept in wallets and backpacks. Listen to the news and be aware of upcoming weather conditions. Review your plans regularly. If you live alone, let friends, family or neighbors know about your plans.

Evacuation checklist

Put these items in a spare rolling or duffle bag. Check the inventory and replace food, water and batteries every six months:

■ Identification with photo and current address

■ Three-day supply of medications and copies of prescriptions

■ Extra cash or traveler’s checks

■ Disposable cell phone, coins for a pay phone or prepaid phone cards

■ List of important contact information

■ A 24- or 48-hour supply of nonperishable food and water

■ Old sleeping bags, pillows and blankets

■ An extra set of clothing and shoes and basic personal hygiene products

■ Moist towelettes and garbage bags for personal sanitation

■ Spare eyeglasses, hearing aids and hearing aid batteries, wheelchair batteries and oxygen, if needed

■ Copies of important documents (deeds, passports, insurance policies)

■ Radio and flashlight with extra batteries

■ Books, playing cards, paper and pens

■ Maps

■ Photos of family members in case you become separated

Source: Jim Johnsen, VNA Emergency Preparedness and Response Coordinator, and

Emergency notification

Residents and business are encouraged to enroll in the CodeRED notification system. Information is kept confidential. To enroll in Routt County, visit; in Moffat County visit

VNA Emergency Preparedness and Response Coordinator Jim Johnsen gathers contact information from older and/or disabled adults who need special notification or assistance during a disaster or evacuation. To include your name on the list, call Johnsen at 970-871-7632.


For more information about preparing for disaster/evacuation, visit, www.readycolorado... or

For information about preparing pets, horses or livestock for disaster, visit and search for “disaster preparedness.”

— Earthquakes, tsunamis, hurricanes, floods and tornadoes — hardly a month goes by without news of catastrophic events pummeling their way into people’s everyday lives.

Last fall’s Fourmile Canyon fire near Boulder, which destroyed more than 160 homes, and fires currently happening on the Front Range, are uncomfortable reminders of the fire danger lurking in our own backyard.

Being prepared for an evacuation or emergency situation is practical, but knowing how to prepare isn’t quite so straightforward.

“There are so many sources of information out there it’s daunting,” said Jim Johnsen, Emergency Preparedness and Response Coordinator for the Northwest Colorado Visiting Nurse Association.

A basic emergency plan and evacuation kit doesn’t have to be expensive or overwhelming.

Evaluating our personal situations and emergencies most likely to affect us can help us make relatively simple preparations that may prove to be invaluable.

“The time is over for people to say, ‘I never thought it would happen here,’” Johnsen said.

Be ready

There are two kinds of emergency preparation kits. A go kit includes supplies for a person or family to take with them during an evacuation. A shelter-in-place kit includes food, water and supplies needed to survive at home for as long as two weeks.

The mountain pine beetle epidemic has made wildfire a major threat in much of Colorado’s mountainous regions.

Evacuation because of a fire is the most likely emergency situation in our region, so assembling a go kit should be the priority in most local households, Johnsen said.

They should approach this with the worse-case scenario in mind — having only five minutes to leave their home. Amid panic and confusion, it’s going to be hard enough to get family and pets out, and even harder for important items.

A go-kit should include food, water and items a person or family would need for about 24 hours — until shelters are established and stocked with supplies — as well as prescriptions, copies of important documents and contact information, and items needed to be comfortable in a shelter for several days.

These kits can include spare items many people already have in their homes such as flashlights and blankets, supplemented by purchased supplies.

Although pre-made emergency kits are available for purchase, they can be expensive and might include unnecessary items.

A person might be unable to return home before an evacuation, which might warrant having a scaled-down kit — or adding to travel emergency supplies — in his or her car.

Staying connected

Offices of emergency management make and carry out evacuation plans. Managers consider weather forecasts, input from fire departments, federal land management agencies, water boards and other information when making evacuation decisions.

The CodeRED notification system is an excellent way for residents to ensure they will be contacted in the case of an evacuation or emergency. Enrolling in the system allows residents to let officials know the best way to reach them — by landline, cell phone and/or email.

An important component of emergency preparedness is a plan that includes family meeting places, alternate evacuation routes and a communication plan.

Instead of wasting evacuation time on the phone, or relying on cellphones, which may not work during emergencies because of network overload, people should establish a person out of the area that family members can call to keep track of one another.

The Red Cross’s Safe and Well website,, allows people within a large-scale disaster area to post messages about their well-being or register with the program via telephone. Family members can check the website or call to see whether there is information about a loved one.

Establishing a plan with friends or neighbors can be particularly important for individuals who may need extra help during an evacuation. Healthy people who have prepared for their own needs may be better able to check on others who are more vulnerable.

“It’s the networking we all need to do a better job with,” Johnsen said.

Emergency networks also are important for pet owners, who are less likely to evacuate if they have no place to shelter their pets. Most evacuation shelters accept only service animals.

Pet owners’ should have their own plan in place that includes motels, boarding facilities, shelters and friends who will be able to take their pet during an emergency.

Owners also might have a go kit for their pet, including carriers, leashes, medications, food and water. Up-to-date identification, license tags and vaccinations will help ensure pets are accepted into any sheltering facilities.

Tamera Manzanares writes for the Aging Well program and can be reached at Aging Well, a division of Northwest Colorado Visiting Nurse Association, is a community-based program of healthy aging for adults ages 50 and older. For more information, visit or call 970-871-7606.


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