Written By: James C. Jones, EMT/CHCM
The challenges of surviving a sustained catastrophic event for the elderly and the disabled are almost totally ignored by the “prepper” community. Survival recommendations and training are almost always directed at healthy, younger people who are at their maximum strength and health. Most preppers have or will have elderly parents or relations that may suffer from arthritis, heat disuse, COPD, and dementia at some point. My wife and I both lived in the inner city with disabled parents for decades. For us, evacuation was just out of the question. We were not going to abandon our responsibilities regardless of risk. A few years ago I participated in a FEMA sponsored workshop on community preparedness. We knew that there are people who need oxygen, chemotherapy, medications, dialysis and other treatments to survive more than a week or two. Even more are aged or crippled with MS and other diseases that prohibit them from accessing food and critical needs without aid. What we learned at that event was that there was little the emergency services could do for these folks under major disaster situations. It is estimated that the majority of those over 70 years of age and those who are functionally disabled or medically dependent will die within the first thirty-days of a full –scale national disaster.
If you are among the elderly or disabled or anyone important to you is, you need to adjust your plans accordingly. If you have disabled parents, your whole survival plans are going to be limited and modified. Evacuation may be impossible. Rescue and defense may be the only option. Disabilities (yours or other) and handicaps will reduce your chances, but it does not mean that you are doomed. Realistic preparedness can provide a real chance for your survival regardless of conditions.
As we grow older (we all will) our capacity to carry loads for long distances is going to diminish. In addition to muscle loss we are more prone to illness and sensitive to temperature extremes. Heat diseases, COPD and arthritis may make any kind of “hiking” out of the question. If you are living alone or with an aged partner you have two options. First: If you can move to a safer location away from the city and high populations do so. Second: have a plan to drive or be driven to a safer area well before situations get critical. If these are not an option or unlikely plan to shelter in place as best you can. That means having water, food, warmth, medications and self-protection that works for you in your conditions. Fire is your biggest threat to in place survival. Can you use a fire extinguisher? You must have ways to escape a fire that works for you. In the gravest extreme you still need to have some kind of evacuation pack. Even if you can only carry or drag 5 to 10 pounds it’s far better than nothing. A qt of water, medications, snacks, a flashlight a Space Blanket and a weapon will give you a big advantage. If you can get a few hundred yards to some other shelter you have a chance. Some perfectly healthy people will die from unpreparedness and giving up. Some prepared and determined disabled folks will get through with a little luck and determination.
There are two classes of disability related to emergency situations. We have the cooperative, but disabled who will aid in their own care to whatever extent they can and the uncooperative who may have dementia, or are just in violent denial. This last category is very difficult to help. They may fight your efforts and even sabotage your plans and equipment. Getting them to a care facility in advance is your best option, but keep in mind that many of these facilities were abandoned during hurricane Katrina and would be again. They have good plans for limited time and area disasters, but not for massive collapse events. Otherwise, you are going to have to care for them as best you can while dealing with survival and defense priorities. The cooperative disabled may be able to aide significantly in their own preparations and survival actions depending on the extent of their problems. You must discuss these issues with them now. Build up supplies of everything they need (as above) at their location and show them what to do. Give special attention to oxygen and critical medications they need. Have a plan to take them to safety or to your safe location ahead of an event. If possible make arrangements with neighbors for their care until you can get to them. See the full article in a future American Survivor newsletter.
James C. Jones was born in Chicago IL in 1941. His early life situations required that he survive with little help at a very early age. Survival skills for the streets of the Southside of Chicago and in the nearby woods and marshes developed a dedication to survival independence and self-reliance. The sports club he organized in high school evolved into Live Free USA, (AmericanSurvivo.org) a national not-for-profit organization that has advocated and educated for family preparedness and self-reliance for over 40-years. The author has appeared on television and has written numerous articles for survival publications Mr. Jones is a certified Emergency Medical Technician, certified Hazard Control Manager and holds certificates in training management from the Langevin Institute in Canada and Safely Management from the American Society of Safety Engineers. He served as an award winning Safety and Environmental Manager for a Fortune 200 chemical manufacturer for two decades. He is currently retired and living in northwest Indian where he continues to write about survival and preparedness and self-reliance for Live Free’s American Survivor newsletter and AmericanSurvivor.org website and conducts frequent lectures and classes.
He can be contacted at email@example.com