How to Prepare for Flooding in San Francisco: Safety Tips for Older Adults and Caregivers

prepare for flooding in san franciscoGerrard used to love the rainy season in San Francisco. There was something about the cool air and the salty Bay Area rain that made him feel alive and energized. He never even really used to mind the flooding because, for him, it always seemed like a great chance to connect with his neighbors and lend a helping hand. Every year, when Gerrard was still able-bodied and strong, he and his wife would pick up sandbags for all the houses on his block in the back of his old VW van and help pile them up in front of everyone’s doorways and basement windows.

Now that he was in his 80s with limited mobility, he no longer had it in him to help his neighbors prepare for the flooding, let alone prepare himself. Luckily, his home care aide, Sid, was able to help him devise a flood plan to ensure that he was safe and his home was secure if the rainy season got particularly bad.

If your aging loved one lives independently, it is incredibly important that you take it upon yourself to ensure they have a proper flood plan in place. In hopes of helping an aging loved one stay safe and dry at home this rainy season, I’m going to share some great tips for how to prepare for flooding in San Francisco.

How to Prepare Aging Adults for Flooding in San Francisco: The Pre-Flood Checklist

Luckily, Sid knew that it was important to help Gerrard prepare for the flood well before the raining season started. Not only would all the necessary supplies be well-stocked in stores, but she wanted to give herself enough time to do all of the things on her list. When she was ready, she sat down with Gerrard and came up with an emergency preparedness plan with him in case of a flood.

Below is a list of things that Sid did for Gerrard that you can do to help your aging loved one be prepared for the flood before it strikes.

Before the flood, be sure to:

  • Bring and set up sandbags near doors and openings.
  • Make sure there is a working carbon monoxide detector.
  • Ensure that all chemical-containing products (such as paint and cleaning products) are stored up off the ground so that they don’t spill during the flood.
  • Put together an emergency kit.
  • Keep phone numbers of family members and caregivers easily accessible and include one out-of-town/long-distance contact in that list (they are usually easier to reach when calling from a disaster area).
  • Contact other family members or friends and arrange for them to check in on your aging loved one periodically by phone.
  • Make arrangements for evacuation if your aging loved one doesn’t drive (I suggest arranging a ride with a neighbor).
  • Freeze any food that could spoil if there is a power outage.
  • Help your aging loved one get comfortable with navigating to radio and TV stations that will provide updates on the flooding.
  • Communicate to refrain from touching electrical equipment if standing in water.
  • Label items, like canes, wheelchairs, and medical devices, with the name of your aging loved one and keep them in an accessible place so that they can be retrieved easily.
  • Organize medication in advance so your loved one can take it with them in case they need to evacuate.

It’s important to involve your aging loved one in every item on this checklist so that they know where everything is located, and so that they feel safe and secure in their home. Having peace of mind that they are prepared for a flood can do wonders for decreasing any anxiety or worry they may have about what may happen to them or their home in a flood situation.

What to Do After the Flood

Of course, being prepared before the flood strikes is only one part of a good preparedness plan. It’s also critical that you have a plan in place for after the flood to ensure that your aging loved one’s home is safe and habitable. After all, not only can flood water be contaminated with harmful substances like sewer and chemicals, it can also lead to mold problems if it isn’t properly dealt with within 24 to 48 hours after the flood.

With your help, or the help of a caregiver, have your aging loved one:

  • Disinfect hard surfaces, such as floors and countertops, with bleach and water.
  • Dry out dampness with dehumidifiers and fans.
  • Contact the San Francisco Department of Public Health by calling 311 if you detect mold or sewage in the home.
  • Call PG&E if your loved one’s furnace isn’t working.

Once all of the above has been done, you can address any structural damage that may have occurred during the flood. If there is any minor damage in your loved one’s home, they can get it repaired for free through Rebuilding Together’s Safe at Home program. This can be really useful if you or your aging loved one isn’t able to do the necessary repairs but want to ensure their home is as safe as possible after the flood.

Thanks to Sid’s preparedness, Gerrard felt confident that he would be just fine during flooding season in San Francisco. And if you follow the above tips for preparing for and recovering from a flood, your aging loved one can feel this way, too. Just as Gerrard used to lend a helping hand to his neighbors in need, we, too, should do everything we can for our aging loved ones, neighbors, and friends in times of disaster and uncertainty. After all, we’re stronger when we bond together.

At Institute on Aging, we believe in helping aging adults live safely and independently in the community. For more information about our services and programs, contact us today.


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Institute on Aging

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