Building Safety for Everyone Looking Out for the Most Vulnerable

New Jersey is home to more than 1.2 million seniors age 65 and older and about a third of them suffer from some kind of disability, according to the latest census. In a state like New Jersey, where anything can happen—from fire, to extreme weather, to terrorism—a disaster plan is an obvious necessity for all HOAs, condos, and multifamily dwellings. Young, able-bodied individuals generally do not focus on safety or security until an event or occasion shows a need for concern, but those living with mental or physical conditions, or other health restrictions, need to be aware of the challenges presented by everyday living, and emergency situations. Young children and teenagers, another vulnerable part of a community, often live side by side with seniors. They may also need special consideration during an emergency.

Most condominiums, multifamily buildings, and planned communities have policies and procedures in place for emergency evacuations and alerts, but a proactive plan to ensure everyone’s safety and security before disaster strikes isn’t static. Annual reviews, updates, and revisions will be required to keep everyone safe, healthy and out of harm’s way. Boards, property managers and the residents themselves all have a role to play in making sure everyone is taken care of in the event of an emergency situation.

Everyone Has a Part

The Red Cross, in its seminal pamphlet on the subject: Disaster Preparedness for People with Disabilities, states that, “It is important for everyone to be prepared to meet his or her basic needs by storing food and water for a minimum of three days or more,” and go on to say for those with disabilities “should also be ready to meet your specific disability-related needs by storing sufficient oxygen, medications, battery power, etc., for at least seven days after a disaster.”

That advice, on having an adequate supply of medications and such, should not only be heeded by the disabled but also by the elderly as many are on some form of medication—be it for something major or minor, it’s better to be prepared.

The Red Cross also recommends creating a supply kit containing food, water, medication, electronic devices and anything else you might need to survive for a few days. They also suggest creating two kits, one for your home and the other for your car. They note that the kits do not need to be made all at once and that you can gather the provisions as you would normally come across them in your daily life, like getting the food and water for your kits when you go grocery shopping, or medications when you see your doctor.

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