Craig Gima
Hawai‘i Herald Columnist

What’s the difference between preparing for a TV-movie “Sharknado” and preparing for a real hurricane or disaster?

If you’re Sharknado TV heroes Ian Ziering or Tara Reid, you might pack a shark-killing chainsaw in your emergency kit.

But for the rest of us, emergency preparation is pretty much the same whether a hurricane, tsunami, earthquake or a fictional disaster like a Sharknado. (For those who haven’t watched the campy Syfy network movie series, a “Sharknado” is a hurricane/tornado with sharks inside).

No matter what the disaster, planning and preparation are essential. You need an emergency kit to shelter in place or to bring with you when evacuating to a shelter or safety. A disaster plan, prepared in advance, should also help locate and communicate with family members.

Especially vulnerable, küpuna, pets and caregivers will have special needs in a disaster.

A basic emergency kit should have at least a two-week supply of food, medicines, kibble and essentials. These days you may still want protective masks, alcohol wipes and gloves. Include medical-alert bracelets, eyeglasses, hearing aids, oxygen and other supports along with extra batteries and a cell-phone charger. Put copies of important documents like wills, power of attorney and bank account information in a waterproof container or on a thumb drive. Also include a description of medical conditions, list medications and allergies and write down what to do in a medical emergency and your emergency contacts.

If your loved one is in a long-term care facility, ask to see the facility’s disaster plan and their infection-control plan to determine if it’s adequate for a disaster or coronavirus outbreak.

Make sure you have a detailed disaster plan that includes a support network of neighbors and friends. Caregivers may not be able to reach a loved one in an emergency, especially during an evacuation. You’ll want someone you can rely on to help your loved one if you can’t be there. Caregivers of people with dementia will need help to keep them calm and to make sure they don’t wander away.

Don’t assume an emergency shelter will open near you. Sheltering in place or at friend or relative’s home in a safe area could be a better place to shelter in a disaster.

Check to see if your home is engineered to survive a severe storm and if it is outside tsunami and flood zones. If you live in a concrete building on an upper floor, you may be better off at home during a storm or tsunami.

AARP Hawai‘i is holding a series of workshops on preparing for disasters on Wednesdays at 2 p.m. starting July 21. Go to or the AARP Hawai‘i Facebook page and click on “Upcoming Events” to see all of the virtual events AARP Hawai‘i offers.

Craig Gima is communications director at AARP Hawai‘i. He is an award-winning multimedia communicator with more than 30 years of experience. A Honolulu native, Gima spent nearly 19 years at the Honolulu Star-Advertiser in a variety of reporting, editing and online roles before joining AARP in 2016. Gima graduated cum laude from the University of Southern California.


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