The Salvation Army Safe Seniors AmeriCorps Program begins distribution of emergency kits

By Robert DeBerry –

A new partnership between The Salvation Army Alaska Division and AmeriCorps is helping seniors prepare for natural disasters and weather emergencies.

The Salvation Army AmeriCorps members help seniors navigate the three steps to preparedness: get informed, create a plan, and develop a kit.

By being informed, seniors learn what hazards threaten their neighborhoods and community. They create a plan which includes a support network, household preparedness and self-assessment and then practice the planned actions or update their old plan. The last step is to develop their kit by gathering critical supplies such as food, water and medication.

According to The Salvation Army Safe Seniors AmeriCorps Program Manager Maddie Kettner, the Safe Seniors AmeriCorps Program is one of the few available in Anchorage for seniors.

“There are some programs that offer minimal levels of support, but we are really the only program that is sitting down and helping seniors to develop an individualized plan, especially those seniors that have specific barriers,” she said.

Kettner said that seniors tend to have more barriers that stand between them and safety or preparedness and equipping them with knowledge is a large part of the program.

“We want to give them personal empowerment to make informed decisions,” she said. “We encourage them to make copies of documents, pack a bag and keep it in the car in case they have to leave in a hurry.”

Another major area of focus is proper water storage. Water plays a key role in many daily functions, from cooking to sanitation, but many seniors don’t have proper water storage.

“People have water but it is not stored properly,” she said. “One of the things we are really trying to focus on is to make sure they are not drinking unhealthy water on top of an already dire situation.”

Being prepared when the situation gets dire is where the emergency preparedness kits come in. With the program starting in November of 2017 and five new Salvation Army Safe Senior AmeriCorps members on board things are now moving forward.

To help celebrate National AmeriCorps week, which was March 12–16, we assembled 360 emergency preparedness kits. The Salvation Army’s National Headquarters Emergency Disaster Services office provided a grant to purchase the kits, which include water and food rations for one person for three days, water purification pills, a dust mask, a seven-day pill organizer, a whistle, emergency blanket, poncho, two glowsticks, a flashlight, a folding cane, hand sanitizer, hand warmers, and a sign indicating “I’m Safe” or “Help Me” for their window.

A lightweight, bright red backpack holds the emergency items and makes it easy to find and grab in a hurry. Kettner points out that the water and ready-to-eat meals have an extended shelf life of five years.

TOTE Maritime helped The Salvation Army get all of the kits to Alaska, while several groups came together to prepare them for distribution.

So far, the program has handed out 25 kits and have enrolled close to 50 seniors. Kettner said it takes about 60–90 minutes for a senior to go through the program and receive a kit. She also said they do a follow up a year later to see if they need help updating their plan.

Emergency Disaster Services Director Jenni Ragland said the next step is to reach out to the faith community.

“Through this process we plan to train congregation members, who will then assist elder and seniors in their congregations,” she said. “We hope to offer this at the area corps and already have one non-Salvation Army church interested in participating.”

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