Disaster management and older people

Four men with orange lifejackets are standing in a yellow State Emergency Service boat on a swollen river. In physical catastrophic events such as flood, fire and earthquakes, older people rarely fare well, and it’s not just their physical needs. Fears and anxieties can make older people resistant to rescue.

HelpAge International’s findings on older people and disasters are reported in Disaster Resilience in an Ageing World. Anyone involved in disaster relief or emergency service should check their policies and systems for the inclusion of older people. A related article can be found in the International Journal of Emergency Management – Recognising and promoting the unique capacities of the elderly.

Even in developed countries older people are more likely to die in a disaster than younger people. In the tsunami of 2011 in Japan, 56 per cent of those who died were 65 and over. This is despite this group comprising 23 per cent of the population.

Broadcasting is an important part of disaster management. Broadcasting tactics need to be inclusive of everyone. A handy reference is the Guideline on Inclusive Disaster Risk Reduction: Early Warning and Accessible BroadcastingIt was prepared with the Asia Pacific region in mind. However, the principles of inclusion and how to implement them in a disaster situation are relevant to any region or country.

The Guideline provides very specific information on the requirements in a given emergency situation. The PDF document can be downloaded from the GAATES website. There is a companion document, Guideline on Inclusive Disaster Risk Reduction. With an increase in severe weather events across the world, it is important to ensure people Front cover of the guidelinewith any kind of disability are afforded the same survival chances as anyone else no matter where they live.