Craig Gima
Hawai‘i Herald Columnist

During hurricane season, when a storm gets close to Hawai‘i, TV news crews go to Costco to take pictures of the long lines of last-minute shoppers buying water, toilet paper and other emergency supplies.

When the next hurricane approaches, don’t be on TV.

Create a disaster plan and build your emergency supply kit well in advance of a storm. If you already have a plan, the beginning of hurricane season is a good time to practice it again and make sure your loved ones remember what to do. Refresh the food, water, batteries and medicines in your emergency kit and throw out items that have expired.

It’s especially important for kūpuna and caregivers to plan and organize a team of relatives, friends and neighbors who can help. Caregivers of loved ones with dementia or disabilities can’t cope with a disaster alone, especially if there’s an evacuation. Ask for help and create a plan before an emergency.

If your loved one is in a nursing home or care home, ask to see their disaster plan and ask if they’ve practiced it and if they have adequate emergency supplies, backup power and workable evacuation procedures.

What will you do if you become separated from your loved ones? A disaster plan should include a post-emergency meeting place and a communications plan with phone numbers written down to keep in contact or leave messages. If your loved one has dementia, write emergency contact information in their clothing so responders will know who to call and where to return them.

Figure out where you will shelter in a hurricane or other natural disaster. Many schools in Hawai‘i are near the ocean and may not be open as emergency shelters in a storm or tsunami. If you live on an upper floor in a concrete building or if your home has been hardened to withstand a hurricane, the best place to ride out a storm may be to shelter in place or with a friend or relative who lives in a safer structure. Ask in advance if you can stay during an emergency.

Everyone needs to do their part to protect themselves and their loved ones, including checking on and helping neighbors, friends and relatives who may need help during and after a disaster.

If you are a community leader, elected official or volunteer who can organize and plan, AARP has created a guide with the Federal Emergency Management Agency to help neighborhoods and communities better prepare and protect older residents in a disaster. The guide is available at

Past hurricanes and disasters have shown us that older residents are among the most vulnerable during an emergency and after a disaster when roads are closed and electricity and water are cut off.

A little bit of preparation can save lives. Other online resources are:


American Red Cross:

Alzheimer’s Association:

University of Hawai‘i:

Craig Gima is the 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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