Disaster preparedness for older people

As part of the PrepAge project, in September 2015 the Latvian Red Cross organised a comprehensive disaster preparedness training exercise aimed at the elderly population in Latvia. The project-wide objective is to introduce special requirements for older people into emergency and disaster preparedness and prevention programmes.

The lead organisation of the PrepAge project is the Austrian Red Cross. It is implemented in partnership with the British Red Cross, the Bulgarian Red Cross, the Croatian Red Cross, the Latvian Red Cross and Innsbruck University from 1 April 2014 to 31 March 2016. The project is funded by the European Commission’s Directorate General for Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection (ECHO).

Photo: Latvian Red Cross

The PrepAGE project has been developed to identify the needs, structures and measures to find out how to prepare and reach the target group of older people in cases of emergencies and disasters. The project also takes into account the resources and resilience of older people, bringing together experts from the health and social sectors and the field of disaster management.

"While some guidelines exist on special requirements for older people in disasters, the integration of their needs into emergency and disaster preparedness programmes remains insufficient in many countries. In the face of ageing populations and increased disaster risks throughout the European Union, this issue is becoming increasingly important”, says Charlotte Strümpel, European project coordinator.

Enhancing disaster preparedness among older people in Latvia

This part of the project was carried out by the Latvian Red Cross, through various training activities targeted mainly at the elderly. Activities aimed to empower older people with the right tools to be resilient, at home and outdoors. An evacuation training took place in the Social Care Centre Sturisi in Laidze, Talsi region; home to 130 elderly people suffering from dementia, mental or physical disorders.

Photo: Latvian Red Cross

At the training, several other experts participated as observers and discussion partners. Among others, they included government officials, firefighters, police representatives, and representatives from the Estonian Red Cross.

After the practical part of the training, everyone had an opportunity to observe demonstrations of using fire extinguishers and to learn First Aid skills.

The event concluded with an evaluation discussion, where delegates from all participating institutions gave their opinions and conclusions on how rescue plans can be improved, especially for seniors and people with special needs.
 
"It is important that residents and staff of Social Care centers are ready to act in the case of possible emergency situations. The implementation process of the evacuation training showed that all parties are ready for the cooperation. However, these trainings have a high value for developing the skills necessary, and should be carried out more frequently. Moreover, using the results of similar projects is essential to increasing understanding and collaboration, which helps to guarantee the sustainability of the knowledge acquired, ” says Agnese Trofimova, Latvian Red Cross PrepAge project manager.

Similar exercises either have been, or will be carried out in Austria, Bulgaria, Croatia and the United Kingdom. The experiences gathered will be published as a guide to inform practice in this area. Also, European policy recommendations will be compiled on the basis of National and European workshops. Once complete, these will be available on the project website: www.prepage.eu

The PrepAge project is being co-funded by the Civil Protection Financial Instrument of the European Union. Learn more about it here.