, Salem, MA

April 12, 2013

Salem seniors getting 'grab and go' kits

By Bethany Bray

---- — SALEM — If you had to evacuate your home in a hurry, what would you take with you?

Several city departments are collaborating to provide “grab and go” emergency kits for local seniors. The kits are meant to be packed and ready in case a senior needs to leave home because of a fire, storm or other emergency.

The program embodies the old saying, “Prepare for the worst and hope for the best.”

Salem’s Council on Aging, Board of Health, and Police and Fire departments are working together to collect donations for the kits and distribute them locally. They’ve passed out 350 so far and hope eventually to reach all of Salem’s 8,000 senior citizens, said Sharon Felton, social services coordinator at the Salem Council on Aging.

Items in the kits are based on recommendations from the Red Cross, as well as the Danvers Council on Aging, who put together a list after talking with residents affected by the 2006 explosion of a Danversport ink and paint plant.

In Salem, residents of an elderly housing complex on Charter Street were evacuated during a late-night fire on Feb. 24.

“This is a big topic,” Felton said. “Disaster has hit across our state, across our country, and we want our seniors to be prepared.”

Along with donated items, such as hand sanitizer, key chains and a mini first aid kit, the bags have instructions for seniors to include personal items, such as a change of clothes, medications, a list of emergency contacts and other essential documents.

For those who live in senior housing complexes, there’s a tag to leave on your door explaining when you left and where you’re going.

Grab-and-go kits are available at the Salem Council on Aging, 5 Broad St. Staff are also taking kits to homebound residents and local senior housing complexes.

As they distribute the kits, they talk with seniors about the importance of being prepared, she said.

Several local businesses have donated items for the kits, but donations are still welcome, Felton said. Needed items include pens and paper, pill dispensers, whistles, local maps, address books, and toothbrushes and toothpaste.