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How to keep older adults safe in emergency situations




The sun rises as flames from a wildfire burn Monday, Oct. 9, 2017, east of Napa, Calif. The fire is one of several burning across Northern California's wine country. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)
The sun rises as flames from a wildfire burn Monday, Oct. 9, 2017, east of Napa, Calif. The fire is one of several burning across Northern California's wine country. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)
Rich Pedroncelli/AP

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The wildfires in Northern California continue to burn, but firefighters say that containment efforts are finally starting to gain momentum.

"We're making really good progress," said Daniel Berlant, assistant deputy director of Cal Fire. "In fact, on a number of fires, we're seeing containment anywhere between 50 and 70 percent."

As of Monday, 41 people had  been killed by the wildfires. Of those, 27 were adults over the age of 65.

"I think if you look at older adults, they may have increased problems with mobility so that if you have just minutes to get away and if you're slightly slower, then that creates a huge danger," said Donna Benton, research associate professor of gerontology at USC.

Benton says that older people are more at risk to be killed in a crisis situation due to issues ranging from mobility to decreased cognitive ability. 

"If you can't make decisions as quickly, you may make poor decisions during a time of a crisis bcause of the stress," Benton said.

How to make sure older adults are ready for an emergency situation

1. If you live with elderly people, make sure they understand the emergency plan

"It's very important that you share the disaster plan that all families should have. With your older adult, practice so that you get a sense of how long it takes for each member of your network to get out of the house. Make sure there are some extra keys [so they can get out of the house easily]."

2. Talk with those in your neighborhood, including emergency responders 

"Talk with your neighbors. Talk with your local fire department so that they're aware you have an older adult in the neighborhood. Personally, I've gone through this with an older adult in my house. I had made friends early on with the fire department by taking them ...  fruit baskets. Whatever you can do to keep a relationship where they'll remember you."

3. Keep your landline phone

"While everyone loves cell phones, keep a hardwire phone somewhere in your home. Many of those get disconnected because of costs, people don't answer them, but they're very good." 

For more on the California wildfires, click the blue player above.