STILLWATER, Okla. – Although tornadoes and Oklahoma seem nearly synonymous, this summer’s wildfires, extreme heat and ongoing drought prove the state is no stranger to a variety of disasters. That is why residents, including older adults and families with young children, are encouraged to prepare ahead of time.

“Oklahomans see everything from ice storms to earthquakes to floods,” said Gina Peek, Oklahoma State University Cooperative Extension housing and consumer specialist. “Although it’s tempting to believe that emergencies only happen to other people, they can happen to anyone. Getting ready in advance reduces the risk to you and your family in a disaster.”

Generally, every family should begin disaster planning by thinking about the unique needs of each person, Peek said. For instance, families with infants should be sure to include necessities such as formula, diapers, bottles, powdered milk, any medications, moist towelettes and diaper rash ointment.

“Try to include young children in the planning and encourage them to participate,” said Peek, who noted that kid-and-family-friendly disaster related activities, worksheets, games and other materials could be found at” 

Meanwhile, for older adults, assessing their special needs could include taking into account their strength and mobility. A basic emergency kit should include supplies such as enough water and food for three days, a flashlight with extra batteries, a first aid kit and emergency radio. However, a fully stocked kit could become heavy and difficult to move.

In these cases, Peek suggested creating two kits: one for sheltering at home and one that is smaller, lighter and easier to maneuver if sheltering outside the house.

“It’s also worthwhile to think about the type of container you want to use for your kit. For instance, say you have arthritis. Would a case with wheels work better compared to a large plastic tote with handles?” she said.

Once assembled, it is best to keep the kits in a safe, accessible place.

“The idea is to put the kit somewhere that can be reached quickly, so try to avoid storing it on a high shelf or at the back of an already crowded closet,” Peek said. 

Older adults, and especially those who have difficulty moving around, also could be concerned about or require assistance when climbing down into basements or belowground shelters.

“This is really an issue of personal comfort,” Peek said. “Older adults who are worried about making it down to the basement or shelter should consider identifying another safe space in their home.”

Other special considerations for older adults preparing for emergencies include ensuring they have extra glasses, hearing aids, hearing aid batteries, as well as an additional oxygen supply. Adults also should include copies of all medical insurance, Medicare and Medicaid cards; wills; and power of attorney among important documents stored in a waterproof container and put in the emergency kit.

Ultimately, when it comes to disaster preparedness, and especially with young children and older adults, Peek said it is a matter of taking care of yourself and your family.

“Oklahomans pride themselves on being independent and self-reliant,” she said.
“It’s important to be ready.” 


Oklahoma State University, U.S. Department of Agriculture, State and Local Governments Cooperating: The Oklahoma Cooperative Extension Service offers its programs to all eligible persons regardless of race, color, national origin, religion, gender, age, disability, or status as a veteran, and is an equal opportunity employer.



Leilana McKindra
Communications Specialist
Agricultural Communications Services
Oklahoma State University
Stillwater, OK 74078
Phone: 405-744-6792
Fax: 405-744-5739
Email: [email protected]

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