As the elderly population grows at a fast rate in the borough and throughout the city, the city Office of Emergency Management is increasing its efforts to inform seniors who live in hurricane evacuation zones about what steps they need to take to remain safe during floods.
OEM has put seniors in the forefront of their outreach efforts for years, according to an official at the agency.
“The program grows more and more,” the official said, saying OEM’s largest efforts include informing the elderly in advance about how to prepare for an emergency.
The official said OEM employs a full-time senior outreach specialist, who can contact elderly residents with information they need in an emergency, and runs a program called Ready New York, which gives presentations to senior citizens about how they can be prepared.
According to the city Department for the Aging, senior citizens are the fastest growing segment of the city’s population, and 30 percent of New Yorkers aged 60 and above reside in Queens — one-fifth of those people have mobility and self-care issues.
The OEM official said it is important to tailor outreach to the senior population because they have more specific needs, such as medications. The official said the agency tells seniors to keep extra medications in go-bags with a list of their dosages and to make sure they have backup medical equipment.
“We tell people, think of your needs in advance,” the official said.
One of the agency’s most recent efforts includes distributing a guide specifically tailored for people with special needs, including seniors, called “My Emergency Plan.” The brochure walks people through the process of creating their own plan, such as making sure to have people in their network they can call in an emergency. The official said OEM distributed 100,000 guides this year.
Community Board 10 Chairwoman Betty Braton, who estimated that 40 percent of the people in hurricane evacuation Zone B and 34 percent of the people in Zone C of board 10’s district are either senior citizens or children, said she is confident in the city’s ability to deal with flooding.
“I think this city has an excellent reputation in terms of how it deals with emergencies,” she said.
She said, however, some things still need to be done.
“Despite the amount of education the city has done on things like evacuation and emergency preparedness, anecdotally at the time of the hurricane last year, there were still some people who didn’t know what evacuation zone they were in at the last minute,” she said.
Reach reporter Karen Frantz by e-mail at kfrantz@cn
©2012 Community News Group
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