Hurricanes affect coastal areas on a seasonal basis, as residents of those areas are well aware. But hurricane safety is especially important for older people.

“They have a lot more needs, such as medication,” says Jennifer Windley, director of communications at the Cape Fear, NC, branch of the American Red Cross. “Sometimes their mobility is a lot more difficult than with younger people.”

One of the first thing seniors with special needs should do is to contact their local emergency management agency and inform them they could need help should a storm approach. Many have programs to assist the elderly and keep a list of those requiring help.

“We’ll come out and pick them up and take them out to the special needs shelter where there are health professionals that will help them,” says Jim von Rinteln, emergency management coordinator for the Collier County, FL, emergency management department.

Gather Supplies for Hurricane Safety

Seniors still need to know what to bring and how to get in contact with emergency officials. Von Rinteln says necessary supplies include a two-week supply of food, water and medication (or at least a prescription that can be filled at a drugstore near the evacuation point). If the medication needs refrigeration, they should pack ice or buy a battery-operated refrigerator.

Oxygen and dialysis machines also should be prepared for a power outage, with a backup power source.

“[Seniors should] sit down and think through what they’re going to need to do if a hurricane threatens, a little bit more than the average person who wings it and waits to the last second and rushes around,” von Rinteln says.

Dean Dimke, executive director of the Red Cross Cape Fear chapter, recommends people take first aid and CPR classes while also keeping a first-aid kit handy.

Hurricane Safety Means Early Evacuation

Von Rinteln says many seniors have an advantage in preparing, because they have more free time and should use it to get a jump on everyone else. Leave the area a day or two earlier to stay with friends or find a hotel room, he advises.

“By the time we tell people there’s an evacuation, you’re not going to get a room within 200 miles,” he says. “If you can leave early, do it. The smartest and most well prepared are going to be the ones in the most comfortable situation. You’re going to be safe in a shelter, but you’re not going to be comfortable with 600 scared kids and 600 terrified adults.”

He especially urges seniors who live in areas most susceptible to hurricane damage to get out of town as soon as possible.

“They should not wait for the evacuation,” Von Rinteln adds. “They probably should go ahead and leave as soon as there’s a hurricane watch–don’t wait for a warning.”

Preparation and Communication for Hurricane Safety

Dimke says he cannot stress enough the need to be ready before a storm even forms.

“The most important thing is the evacuation plan–to have your necessary supplies ready to go,” he says.

And don’t keep your evacuation plan to yourself.

“You should let other people know where you’re going to be,” Dimke adds. “Share your evacuation plan beforehand with those who know and love you.”

This story was updated from a version on on by Brendan Farrington.