Joint Press

In Wake of Hurricane Harvey, and as Irma Approaches, Senate Aging Committee to Examine Disaster Planning for Older Americans

Photo of nursing home residents in flood-ravaged Texas reflects challenges facing vulnerable Americans during emergencies

Washington, D.C.—Later this month, the Senate Aging Committee will hold a hearing to examine policies and procedures for sheltering in place, evacuating, and relocating our most vulnerable citizens before disaster strikes. The purpose of the hearing is to review what has been learned from past experience and what more can be done to ensure the health, safety, and resilience of older Americans during and after disasters, such as hurricanes.

One of the most dramatic images from the devastation recently caused by Hurricane Harvey shows elderly residents of an assisted-living center in Dickinson, Texas, awaiting rescue as flood water rose waist deep inside the facility. The photo, which went viral on social media, was a poignant reminder that older Americans and individuals with disabilities are particularly vulnerable during a natural disaster.

When Hurricane Katrina slammed into the Gulf Coast 12 years ago, more than half of those who died were seniors, according to a report from the National Institutes of Health. Since that devastating storm, disaster response officials have placed much emphasis at the national, state, and local level to better protect older Americans during an emergency.

“By all accounts, the community response to the devastating flood and ongoing crisis caused by Hurricane Harvey has been truly inspiring. There are endless examples of heroic actions by first responders and volunteers as well as stories of neighbors helping neighbors,” said Senators Susan Collins and Bob Casey, Chairman and Ranking Member of the Senate Aging Committee. “As we have learned from this disaster as well as past catastrophes such as Hurricane Katrina and Superstorm Sandy, however, some of our neighbors – especially seniors – face many obstacles during a crisis. This hearing, which will be held during National Preparedness Month, will help improve preparedness and response efforts the next time disaster strikes by focusing attention on the care older adults may need.”

As our nation prepares for another approaching storm, Hurricane Irma, there are steps everyone can take today to be prepared. Seniors, however, should take extra precautions and have a plan should they need to evacuate or have supplies, such as nonperishable food and fresh water, in their home should they be forced to shelter in place for several days. More specific information can be found at

What: Senate Aging Committee hearing, “Disaster Preparedness and Response: The Special Needs of Older Americans”
When: Wednesday, September 20, 2017, 9:00 AM
Where: 562 Dirksen Senate Office Building, Washington, D.C.
Witnesses: TBD