“It Could Happen To Me!” The Hartford and MIT AgeLab Urge Older Adults to Put Together a Disaster Plan

“It Could Happen To Me!” The Hartford and MIT AgeLab Urge Older Adults to Put Together a Disaster Plan

Insurer offers free booklet via The Hartford website to encourage families and friends to discuss the importance of planning for a natural disaster

HARTFORD, Conn. — It’s a startling figure: 75 percent of American households are at risk for some type of natural disaster. Equally startling is that relatively few have done much to prepare. To raise awareness and spread the message on the importance of having a disaster plan in place, The Hartford Financial Services Group, Inc. (NYSE:HIG) and the MIT AgeLab have created a booklet called “It Could Happen to Me: Family Conversations about Disaster Planning.”

The Hartford and the MIT AgeLab, organizations sharing a long partnership on issues related to improving quality of life for older Americans, have created “It Could Happen to Me” to help this generation better prepare for natural disasters and catastrophes. The process begins by talking to and planning with family, friends and neighbors. Based on research examining the experiences of older adults who live in disaster-prone areas, the booklet guides readers through the disaster planning process, from assessing risk through working with a network of people to create a plan. It also includes checklists and references to help people compile their plan.

“Our research shows that it’s just human nature not to plan for a disaster – mainly because we think it won’t happen to us,” said Cynthia Hellyar, corporate gerontologist at The Hartford. The Hartford maintains a gerontology department charged with, among other things, developing public education projects on issues of safety and independent living. “But it’s critical to plan for a disaster such as a hurricane, tornado, earthquake, flood, or fire, particularly for older adults. Disease-related conditions and the functional limitations they cause are more prevalent in later life, and this makes older adults, as a group, more vulnerable during emergencies and disasters,” Hellyar explains.

When Disaster Strikes: Understanding the Experiences of Older Adults

In the spring of 2007, The Hartford’s Corporate Gerontology Group and the MIT AgeLab conducted research to better understand older adults’ experiences with natural disasters. Eight focus groups were held with people age 50 or older in different locations around the country. The Hartford also conducted a series of interviews with their own claims adjusters to ask them about their experiences working with individuals and families in the wake of natural disasters.

According to the findings, most people have not given thought to the specific tasks that need to be completed to be well-prepared for a disaster, such as having extra medications on hand, or whether their support network of family and friends would be available in the aftermath of a calamity to help them put their lives back together.

“Careful preparation and open communication can help to prevent loss of life and reduce property damage or loss,” explains Lisa D’Ambrosio, Ph.D., research scientist at MIT. “Planning can lessen the stress and discomfort around recovery and rebuilding, as well as decrease the amount of time it will take to get your life back in order.”

The new 37-page booklet is designed to give older adults an easy way to better prepare for disasters. It encourages them to talk and plan with family, friends, and neighbors; to create a home inventory of possessions; and to come up with an action plan to survive and recover from the disaster.

Know Your ABC’s, It’s That Easy

“To create a disaster plan, know and follow your ABC’s–(A) for Action: Take It; (B) for Belongings: Know Them and (C) for Connections: Make Them,” explains Hellyar. “These steps are the key elements of a comprehensive plan.”

Action: Take It!

* Know which disasters you’re at risk for and how to best prepare for them

* Plan for the possibility that you may have to evacuate your home

* Set up your support network

* Evaluate the risks, abilities and needs of everyone in your household and adjust your plan accordingly

* Make a plan for your pets

Belongings: Know Them!

* Create a home inventory. Start by going room to room with a video or still camera to make a visual record of your belongings

* Prepare a written list to accompany your visual record

* Keep receipts for valuable items and write on your inventory list their make, model, serial number, date of purchase, and other relevant information

* Store a copy of whatever documentation you create away from your home

* Update the inventory periodically

Connections: Make Them!

“We found that connections are the most important part of a plan, particularly for older adults,” said Hellyar. “Having a support network and knowing whom you can count on before, during and after a disaster creates peace of mind and reduces stress.” She recommends a few easy steps that can help with the connections part of the plan. They include:

* Having family conversations about disasters and how you will support each other

* Broadening your support network to include neighbors

* Be specific with others in your network about the tasks that need to be done and who will do them

* Don’t hesitate to ask for help if needed, and reach out to others to offer your help

* Adjust your support network after a major life event

“Although you can’t control natural disasters, you can to some extent control how they affect you,” explains Hellyar. “By communicating with your family, friends and neighbors and preparing in advance, you can safely and confidently deal with natural disasters.”

For more information and to order a free copy of the “It Could Happen to Me” booklet, visit The Hartford’s web site, www.thehartford.com/talkaboutdisasterplanning.

The Hartford became a founding sponsor of the MIT AgeLab in 1999. The Hartford’s corporate gerontology group has been working with the MIT AgeLab since then to produce original research that can influence the quality of life of older adults and their families. The Hartford/MIT AgeLab partnership has reached millions of people around the globe with information to help guide important decisions about safety, mobility and independence.

The Hartford, a Fortune 100 company, is one of the nation’s largest diversified financial services companies, with 2006 revenues of $26.5 billion. The Hartford is a leading provider of investment products, life insurance and group benefits; automobile and homeowners products; and business property and casualty insurance. International operations are located in Japan, Brazil and the United Kingdom. The Hartford’s Internet address is www.thehartford.com.


Some of the statements in this release may be considered forward-looking statements as defined in the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995. These include statements about our future results of operations. We caution investors that these forward-looking statements are not guarantees of future performance, and actual results may differ materially. Investors should consider the important risks and uncertainties that may cause actual results to differ. These important risks and uncertainties include, without limitation, those discussed in our Quarterly Reports on Form 10-Q, our 2006 Annual Report on Form 10-K and the other filings we make with the Securities and Exchange Commission. We assume no obligation to update this release, which speaks as of the date issued.

The information provided in these materials is of a general nature and provided for informational purposes only. Readers seeking resolution of specific issues or concerns regarding this topic should consult their agent or insurance company. The Hartford does not warrant that the implementation of any view or recommendation contained herein will: (i) result in the elimination of any unsafe conditions for you and/or others at your home or business; or (ii) will be an appropriate legal or business practice.

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