Preparing for an Emergency with a Disability

Preparing for an Emergency with a Disability
None of us knows when a disaster may strike, but preparing ahead helps you maintain independence as well as recover in the aftermath sooner. It’s important for everyone with a disability.

The first priority of disaster relief organizations and government agencies is providing the basic necessities. Food, water and accessible shelter are particularly important. Your personal needs, such as replacing medications and/or adaptive equipment, restoring electricity for equipment dependent upon power and restoring your routine support may not happen immediately, but prepare for basic needs in a crisis.

Store food, water, medications and medical supplies for a minimum of three days. When you have the funds and availability, keep an extra battery for cell phones, your wheelchair or scooter, or any other equipment that needs battery power. Plan for up to a week.

Be aware of challenges you could come up against if you were unable to use your home, office and personal belongings. Prepare a “go kit” before a disaster so you can literally get out and go. Have a service animal? Keep food, water and other care items for the animal in an emergency. You may even need to deal with stress of life without your service animal if they become sick or injured in an emergency.

Use a battery-operated wheelchair, life-support system or other power-dependent equipment? Contact your power company before blackouts happen to find out their procedure. Many utility companies keep a list and map of power-dependent customers in case of an emergency. Mine does.

Do you use a motorized wheelchair or scooter? Please have an extra battery. A car battery also can be used with a wheelchair, but will not last as long as a wheelchair’s deep-cycle battery. Isn’t that something? If available, store a lightweight manual wheelchair as a back up. I know it’s not optimal, but think of bare bones survival here.

Blind or have a visual disability? Store a talking or Braille clock or large-print timepiece with extra batteries. Deaf or have a hearing loss? Get a small portable, battery-operated TV. Emergency broadcasts may give information in American Sign Language (ASL) or open captioning.

Have drills to know evacuation points and how you’ll get out to safety. Do you know someone else with a disability? Be open to serving as emergency assistance, too. Buddy up!

Warnings are often given by audible means such as sirens and radio announcements, People who are Deaf or hard of hearing may not receive early warnings and emergency instructions. Be open to relaying information.

Some people who are Blind or who have a visually impaired, especially older people, may be reluctant to leave familiar surroundings with a stranger as you might be. Get to know neighbors or support staff well.

Assistance animals can be confused or ill in a disaster. People who are Blind or partially sighted may depend on others to lead them, as well as their dog, to safety. Get to know each others’ routine. Check with local emergency management officials for more information about keeping your assistance animal with you.

I do not walk, so I am concerned about being dropped when being lifted o r carried. Find out the proper way to transfer or move someone in a wheelchair and what exit routes from buildings are best to talk someone through it if you can’t yourself.

Whether you can give CPR or first aid yourself, it’s important to know how. Attend a class like I am. Whatever I am physically able to do, I will. Whatever I can’t do, I can talk someone nearby through it until help arrives. Your friends with an intellectual disability may be unable to understand the emergency and become confused about the proper way to react. Be helpful and patient, please.

People with epilepsy or Parkinson’s disease have very individualized medication regimens that can’t be interrupted without consequences. Some may be unable to communicate that in an emergency. Keep instructions with your medications to help you and loved ones.

If a disaster warning is issued, check with your neighbors or coworkers. Having a disability doesn’t mean you can’t be of help. Just because you are independent doesn’t mean you won’t need help. It works both ways.

Assist as best you know how either verbally or physically in an evacuation effort. Know your limits well. Practice leaving home or work and offering help, or talking someone else through helping. Be ready to provide transportation to a shelter if you are able. Find out if emergency evacuation teams have accessible transportation offerings if you don’t.

Discuss with others assistance they need and how best to help you! Emergencies happen. Help yourself and others prepare beforehand.

Content copyright © 2009 by Monica J. Foster. All rights reserved.
This content was written by Monica J. Foster. If you wish to use this content in any manner, you need written permission. Contact Monica J. Foster for details.

You Should Also Read:
Federal Emergency Management Agency-Individuals with Special Needs
American Red Cross-Preparing for Disaster for People with Disabilities and other Special Needs
National Council on Disability's Effective Emergency Management Report

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Content copyright © 2023 by Monica J. Foster. All rights reserved.
This content was written by Monica J. Foster. If you wish to use this content in any manner, you need written permission. Contact Christina Dietrich for details.