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Home Modification sometimes fails to adequately consider vulnerability in flood, storms and disaster

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With severe weather in NSW and the ACT and snow in the blue mountains it is timely to remember that older people and those with some level of disability or impairment are clearly among the groups who are most vulnerable in severe weather or other disasters. People with disabilities and Older people may be unable to quickly evacuate a building and if power goes out this can impact on life-support equipment, such as oxygen supply, heating, electric wheelchairs and water pumps.

Damage to transport systems may mean that service providers (rescuers and home help services) cannot reach older people. In many situations, such as the 2011 earthquakes and tsunami in Japan, older people suffer higher injury and death rates than other age groups. During Hurricane Katrina in the USA, 75% of those who died were aged over 60, while this age group represented only 16 % of the local population.

A two year NZ project entitled “ Community Resilience and Good Ageing: Doing Better in Bad Times” has developed a set of practical tools for thinking about housing and flooding.  Flooding is of particular concern for instance for many older persons who choose sea change locations and or who fail to maintain their home over time. The tools along with research findings, presentations and reports are all available for download from the programme website http://resilience.goodhomes.co.nz/.

Additionally, the UNISDR and HelpAge International issued a call for greater involvement of older persons in disaster management efforts worldwide. The joint statement said there was strong evidence that older persons suffer disproportionately from disasters even in developed countries. It is calling on governments to sign up to Charter 14 for Older People in Disaster Risk Reduction and commit to specific inclusion of older persons in all facets of disaster management planning with a strong emphasis on early warnings and evacuation procedures.


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