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Weathering the Storm

I grew up in Tornado Alley where as a child we practiced crouching under our desks at school or running to an interior bathroom as our only means of preparation in the path of danger. Thirty years later, I moved to beautiful Coastal Georgia where hurricanes are nature’s weapon. While tornados are unpredictable and rapid to form and strike, hurricanes give plenty of time to take action.  And while that is a plus on the side of hurricanes, they also have an offsetting negative - unlike the “Russian Roulette” nature of tornados, hurricanes leave no one unaffected in their wake and last a lot longer.

So, with it being “that time of year” and Matthew still a fresh memory, I thought this might be a good time to share some things I have learned, particularly for those of us moving into “the next chapter.” As with most things, good preparation makes a huge difference.  It may take a little time, but preparation pays off during an emergency.

First, make a plan for evacuation. Don’t plan to “ride it out” in your home, particularly if you are alone or frail. (Hello…Matthew!) Know for sure how you are going to leave the area. If you require transportation and medical assistance during an evacuation and have no other resources such as family, friends, neighbors, or church members to help, you may qualify for the Functional, Access, and Medical Needs Registry. Call your county’s health department to learn more about the registry. In Chatham County, the number is 912-691-7443. You must apply before a storm threatens our area!

Once you have your transportation settled, along with deciding which keepsakes to take, I recommend you prepare three “kits.”

Emergency Medical kit: 
· 2-6 day supply of current medications
· Insulated bag to carry any medication (such as insulin) that needs to stay chilled (Tip: keep an ice bag in the freezer at all times so you can grab it and go.)
· Medical equipment you use, such as hearing aide batteries, a blood pressure cuff
· Your Yellow Dot packet. You can get your packet from Senior Citizens Inc. (912-236-0363). If you don’t have one, put the following in a large plastic, waterproof bag:
     An up-to-date list of your medications and the dosages
     Copy of your medical records. You can get this from your doctor and it should include a list of your medical issues and how they are being treated.
     Copy of your medical insurance cards

Important Information kit:
· Copy of your home/car insurance policies
· Phone number of your insurance broker
· Copy of your identification cards/passport
· Copy of your credit cards
· Phone numbers of family and friends

Road Trip kit:
· Bag of travel-size toiletries
· Cash – at least $50, if possible, in small bills
· Toilet paper – at least 1-2 rolls (trust me on this!)
· Extra set of clothes, from underwear to coat and an extra pair of shoes
· Deck of cards, good book
· Water
· Snacks, such as soft fruit bars, shelf-stable food
· Cell phone charger
· Manual can opener
· Wine opener (a necessity in my book!
· Basic First Aid kit
· Pocket knife
· Blanket and Pillow to make a more comfortable car ride and be a little touch of home wherever you land.

When it’s time to evacuate, here are a few tips for the road:
· Call your family and friends before leaving and let them know your plans.
· Grab your Kits (medical, important Info, road)
· Make frequent stops on the road. Everyone needs to stretch but it is particularly important for circulation reasons that you not sit too long. At the very least, you don’t want to end up at your final destination achy, stiff and with swollen ankles!
· Use the restroom at each stop.  As Mom said, you never know when the next clean one will come your way.
· Drink water. Water is preferable to sodas, coffee, or my previously mentioned favorite, wine. Dehydration is a serious issue but it is particularly damaging as we get older.

With any luck, we won’t be called upon to put our plans into action. But if we do, you’ll be glad that you took advantage of a hurricane’s one asset: the time to prepare. It’s a lot more effective (and easier) than trying to hide under your desk!         

For the past 17 years, Patti Lyons has been the President of Senior Citizens Inc., a nonprofit organization that has been helping people age successfully for almost 60 years. She serves on the Meals On Wheels America Board and is a Governor’s appointee to the Georgia Council on Aging.