Emergency Preparedness for Seniors in Vermont: Safety Across Seasons

As many Vermonters know, the Green Mountain State is famous for its long, cold winters, muddy springs, and warm, humid summers. In recent years, Vermont has experienced dramatic flooding events that have lasting impacts on local communities. Precipitation is predicted to increase over the next several decades. Are you prepared?

No matter what unpredictable weather Vermont has in store, Age Well can help with emergency preparedness for seniors. This information is designed to help you get organized and remain ready for weather events and other emergencies.

General Emergency Preparedness for all Seasons

No matter the season, having an emergency plan will help you navigate unexpected and potentially dangerous scenarios. Review the following resources to prepare yourself and those you love:

Make an Emergency Plan before you need one!

Use the resources linked in this blog to understand your risk levels and develop an emergency plan. Discuss your plan with those you are close to (family, friends, caregivers), and choose a contact person in your network to check on you in the event of a disaster. Establish how they will contact you ahead of time ­­– whether it be a knock at the door, a phone call, or a text. Consider asking a neighbor, a family member or a close friend that lives nearby, to be your contact person.

Work with your family members and caregivers to develop a care plan, if you do not already have one.

An Age Well case manager can provide resources to help you develop a care plan. Keep a copy of your care plan in your Emergency Supply Kit.

Create an Emergency Supply Kit.

FEMA has developed a comprehensive list of supplies to help you create your kit. Make to include necessary medications, an ID band (with your name, relevant medical information, and emergency contact visible), hearing aids and batteries, eyeglasses or contacts and cleaning solution, a first aid kit, clean clothing, cash, as well as water and nonperishable food for several days. Carry important documents like copies of your identification card, a contact list of phone numbers (family members, case managers, friends, healthcare providers), your care plan, medical cards, insurance policies, and bank account records in a waterproof container.

Make an Evacuation Plan for yourself and your pets.

Plan an evacuation route and familiarize yourself with alternative routes for travel. If you do not plan on evacuating, check with local officials about available shelter options. If you have a car, make sure to fill your gas tank in advance if an evacuation seems likely. Make a plan for your pets.

For those who require medical transportation or have other access-related needs: registering with organizations like SMART 911 and Code Red helps first responders find those who need assistance in emergencies. Contact your county office of emergency management for more information.

Are you interested in learning more about your risk of experiencing a natural disaster?

FEMA and The American Red Cross have created tools to help the public understand their risk.

Summer Emergency Preparedness & Safety Tips

According to the State of Vermont, Vermonters are at an increased risk of serious illness or even death when the statewide average temperature reaches 87 degrees Fahrenheit. While Vermont currently experiences roughly seven days of extreme heat (87 degrees F or higher) a year, the Vermont State Climate Office predicts that this number will increase to 15-20 days of extreme heat by the middle of the century. Beyond extreme heat, older adults should also be aware of climbing humidity levels. High humidity can make extreme heat seem even more unbearable and contribute to health issues like dehydration, skin irritation, and muscle cramps, in addition to heat exhaustion and heat stroke.

People aged 65 or older are at an increased risk of heat-related health problems. Older adults are more likely to have chronic health conditions that affect sensitivity to heat and are more likely to take prescription medications that can alter the body’s response to temperature changes. According to Scientific American Magazine, common medications that can affect one’s ability to stay cool include: “diuretics, antipsychotics, beta-blockers, stimulants, antihypertensives and anticholinergic medications.”

To stay safe and comfortable this summer, follow these tips:

Check the Weather

Make a habit of monitoring local weather and news reports. Avoid spending time outside during the hottest time of the day, typically between 11:00 AM and 3:00 PM. If you are planning to spend time outdoors, make sure to check the weather forecast for thunderstorms. Consider using a mobile weather app on your phone to get the latest updates in real-time.

For example, the State of Vermont has created VT-ALERT, a weather alert service that sends updates as text messages or phone calls to your mobile device. You can also receive up-to-date information by following the Vermont Health Department or Vermont Emergency Management on social media.

Plan to Stay Cool and Hydrated

If you notice an incoming heatwave on the weather forecast, use the following tips and resources to stay cool and hydrated. Avoid spending lengthy periods of time out in the sun. Wear loose-fitting, light-colored, and lightweight clothing. Older adults are at a higher risk for dehydration – drink plenty of water and do not wait until you are thirsty to start drinking. Communicate with your doctor before extreme heat events, especially if you have been instructed to limit your water intake or if you are on water pills. Do not participate in strenuous activities during extreme heat. Consider checking on your friends and have them do the same for you – even a quick text or a phone call could save someone’s life.

If your home does not have air conditioning, the State of Vermont created this map tool to help identify cooling stations across the state. Contact your local town office for more information about cooling stations or call the Age Well Helpline at: 1-800-642-5119, Monday – Friday from 8:30 am – 4:30 pm.

In addition to the tips listed above, familiarize yourself with the signs of heat illnesses.

Be Aware: The Warning Signs of Heat Illness

Heat illnesses, like heat exhaustion and heat stroke, can pose a serious threat to your health and well-being. The CDC has created helpful infographics to differentiate between symptoms and assess risk, which can be found here:


To reduce the risk of internal harm, it is best to intervene as soon as possible when someone is experiencing heat-induced stress. According to the National Weather Service, heat exhaustion symptoms include dizziness, thirst, heavy sweating, nausea, and weakness. If you or someone you know is experiencing these symptoms, move them to a cool area, give them sips of water, and help them loosen their clothing. Heat exhaustion can lead to heat stroke, which can result in death or permanent disability if left untreated. If the symptoms of heat exhaustion persist, call 911 immediately to avoid heat stroke.

Avoid Ticks & Prevent Tick Bite Illnesses.

Vermont has one of the highest rates of Lyme Disease in the country. According to the Vermont Department of Health, the risk of Lyme Disease is highest in June, July, and August, but tick-related emergency room visits peak in the spring and fall. If you are planning to be outdoors for an extended period of time while temperatures are above freezing (32 degrees Fahrenheit), you are at risk of picking up ticks.

Ticks thrive in outdoor settings, like the forests you hike in, farms you visit, and even the edges of your own backyard. After any time spent outdoors, but especially if you are planning to visit somewhere rural or remote, make sure to do a tick check on yourself and your pets. Remove any attached ticks you find and dispose of them. For tick disposal, the Mayo Clinic recommends, “putting it in alcohol or a sealed bag, wrapping it tightly in tape, or flushing it down the toilet.” Consider putting your “outdoor clothes” in the dryer for 10 minutes to kill any ticks you pick up on your adventures. 

Above: Birdwatching at the Green Mountain Audubon Center, Huntington, Vermont

For more information about preventing Tick Bite Illnesses, visit: https://www.healthvermont.gov/disease-control/tick-bite-illnesses/prevent-tick-bites-tickborne-diseases

Winter Emergency Preparedness & Safety Tips

Vermont is famous for its cold, snowy winters. Winter storms can cause power outages and car accidents, and spending extended time outdoors without the proper protective gear can be dangerous to your health. If you are planning to venture out this winter, make sure you are dressed appropriately.

Do you need help finding winter clothes? Vermont 211 can help you stay warm with free or low-cost winter clothing.

Check the Weather

Monitor local weather and news reports for the latest updates on winter storms and cold temperatures. Make sure to check the weather forecast and road conditions before you travel. Learn the difference between Winter Storm Warnings, Winter Weather Advisories, and Winter Storm Watches. To get the latest updates on winter weather, consider signing up for VT-ALERT.

Winter storms are intensifying in strength and frequency in Vermont. Prepare before a major storm with your emergency supply kit; stock up on first aid supplies, non-perishable food and water; buy extra batteries for your flashlight and radio; and make sure you have taken the necessary steps to protect yourself and your family from Carbon Monoxide poisoning.

Prevent Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

Carbon Monoxide (CO) is an odorless, poisonous gas that is released when fuel (natural gas, propane, oil, wood) is burned. The risk of CO poisoning increases in the winter months when the temperature drops and more people use furnaces and other heaters.

To protect yourself and those you love from CO poisoning, the Vermont Department of Health recommends testing your smoke and Carbon Monoxide detectors in the fall. Blocked heat vents can cause dangerous levels of CO to build up in your home. Prepare for winter by clearing all heating vents from obstructions. Monitor the heat vents throughout the winter and clear snow away from them.

Generators can release CO. If you have a generator, make sure that it is used outside, away from open air intakes, windows, doors, or other openings to indoor spaces. For more information about Carbon Monoxide and CO poisoning, visit: https://www.healthvermont.gov/environment/healthy-homes/carbon-monoxide#:~:text=Do%20not%20use%20a%20stove,vents%20of%20fuel%2Dburning%20equipment.

Reconsider Shoveling Snow

Are you over the age of 45? It may be best to leave shoveling your driveway to someone else, especially if you have cardiovascular disease or high blood pressure, or if you aren’t used to exercising. Shoveling snow is physically strenuous and can increase your heart rate and blood pressure levels, especially in cold weather – potentially putting you at risk of a heart attack. Talk to your doctor before shoveling snow this winter.

Be Aware: The Warning Signs of Frostbite and Hypothermia

If you plan to spend time outdoors this winter, make sure to dress appropriately and cover exposed skin on the coldest days. Frostbite and hypothermia are serious health conditions that can occur during the wintertime. Left untreated, both frostbite and hypothermia can put you at risk of losing a limb or even your life. Older adults are more likely to have health conditions, like Diabetes, Parkinson’s disease, arthritis, and thyroid disease, that make it more difficult to stay warm. For those working or recreating outdoors this winter, the American Red Cross recommends taking breaks from the cold, dressing for the wind chill, and drinking plenty of warm fluids (but avoid caffeine and alcohol) to prevent hypothermia and frostbite.

For more information about recognizing and treating frostbite and hypothermia, visit:


Check on your friends, family, and neighbors.

While many Vermonters participate in recreational activities during the winter, others struggle to get out and find connection. Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), also known as the “winter blues” can affect anyone but is more common in populations that experience more intense winters. Symptoms of SAD can be misattributed to other conditions in older adults. If you think you are experiencing SAD, talk to your doctor.

Stay connected with your family, friends, and members of your community. One-fourth of adults 65 and older are considered to be socially isolated. While facing the winter weather can be daunting, Age Well offers Wellness programs and services to support older Vermonters, their families, and caregivers to help you beat the winter blues.

The Age Well Helpline is a valuable resource. When individuals call our Helpline, they are often relieved that the phone is answered by someone who understands the problem and can offer real-time solutions. The Helpline can be reached at 1-800-642-5119. Follow us on social media, and visit our calendar of events to learn more about programs and event opportunities. For those unable to venture out to a Community Meal event, explore our Grab & Go alternatives or our Meals on Wheels delivery services. For a complete list of Age Well’s opportunities for connection, read our Older American’s Month Blog.

Above: Grand Isle County Community Meal

Looking to use technology to stay connected? Consider trying GetSetUp, an online learning platform that offers thousands of classes for older adults, taught by older adults! Classes are offered at no cost to participants, you can take as many as you would like! GetSetUp can help you become more fit, tech-savvy, or connected with class topics ranging from yoga to Instagram. Classes cater to all skill levels, from beginners to advanced experts! Explore GetSetUp offerings to learn new skills, meet others, and beat cabin fever!

Nervous about Emergency Preparedness? Age Well is here to help.

Age Well can help you enhance your safety and protect your peace of mind. Preparing for natural disasters or other emergencies involves thoughtful planning as well as establishing a dedicated support network. Whether it is creating a personalized emergency kit, coordinating communication plans with loved ones, or staying informed about local resources, we are here to assist with resources to help you plan.

Emergencies happen when least expected, but with the right preparations, older adults can face them with confidence. By prioritizing safety, staying informed, and fostering a sense of community, you can be well-equipped to navigate challenges that may arise. Stay safe, stay prepared, and know that we are in this together.

If Age Well can be of support to you or someone you know, please do not hesitate to contact the Age Well Helpline at: 1-800-642-5119.