The victims identified so far in the deadly Northern California wildfires had an average age of 79 years old, prompting concern over how to protect senior citizens from blazes in San Diego.
Deb Martin, CEO and Executive Director of ElderHelp San Diego, said seniors can be difficult to reach in emergency situations. That's especially true for those who live alone.
“Most of them don't usually have transportation. They might have difficulty getting the information," Martin said. "They're not connected to the web and social media, so some of the forms of information aren't getting to them in the way they used to."
San Diego is home to more than 400,000 seniors, and it is the fastest-growing population in the county.
Martin said one of the best things San Diegans can do to protect their senior neighbors is to reach out to them before disaster strikes and make sure they have a plan.
"Who's my contact, who can I rely on to get me to the emergency shelter, who do I call? Is there anyone looking after me? Helping with that?" Martin asked. "Putting those steps in place early is really important."
ElderHelp, along with other organizations, volunteer Community Emergency Response Teams (CERT) and first responders are working to keep vulnerable residents informed.
But Office of Emergency Services Director Holly Crawford said those first responders make up less than one percent of the county’s population, so it is imperative that individuals be prepared for disasters and help those who need assistance.
Crawford urged all San Diegans to sign-up for the county’s emergency notification system–Alert San Diego. It has an “accessible” option, for those who are hearing or sight-impaired.