The likelihood that you and your family will recover from an emergency tomorrow often depends on the planning and preparation done today. While each person’s abilities and needs are unique, every individual can take steps to prepare for all kinds of emergencies from fires and floods to potential terrorist attacks. By evaluating your own personal needs and making an emergency plan that fits those needs, you and your loved ones can be better prepared. For people with special needs disabilities, being prepared is a matter of life or death. If you are on your own, you need to have a plan.
The first step is to consider how an emergency might affect your individual needs.
Think about a given day, what do you do, what do you need and who can help you? Work on a plan to make it on your own for at least three to five days. It is possible in an emergency that you will not have ready access to a medical facility or pharmacy. Basic supplies for survival include food, water and clean air. Consider assembling two kits. One to use at home and one to take with you if you have to leave home.
Recommended basic emergency supplies include:
* Water, one gallon of water per person per day for at least three days, for drinking and sanitation
* Food, at least a three-day supply of non-perishable food and a can opener if kit contains canned food and where possible, extra medication.
* Battery-powered or hand crank radio and a NOAA Weather Radio with tone alert and extra batteries for both
* Flashlight and extra batteries for any necessary electronic equipment
* First aid kit; a week’s supply of any prescription medicines; include copies of all prescriptions and dosage instructions; copies of medical insurance, Medicare and Medicaid cards; instruction for operating any equipment or life-saving devices you rely on
* Whistle to signal for help
* Dust mask to help filter contaminated air and plastic sheeting and duct tape to shelter-in-place
* Moist towelettes, garbage bags and plastic ties for personal sanitation
* Wrench or pliers to turn off utilities
* Local maps
* Pet food, extra water, collar with ID tag and supplies for your pet or service animal
Make a plan
Make a plan for what you would do in an emergency. Write it down and keep it with your emergency supply kit. For every aspect of your daily routine, plan an alternative procedure. Create a personal support network. Share your plans with them and make sure that someone in your support network has a key to your home and knows where you keep your emergency supplies. Practice it. Keep a list of network contact information in your wallet. If you need to evacuate, select a shelter that can accommodate your needs.
- Create a support network. Keep a contact list in a watertight container in your emergency kit.
- Be ready to explain to first responders that you need to evacuate and choose to go to a shelter with your family, service animal, caregiver, personal assistant, and your assistive technology devices and supplies.
- Plan ahead for accessible transportation that you may need for evacuation or getting to a medical clinic. Work with local services, public transportation or paratransit to identify your local or private accessible transportation options.
- Inform your support network where you keep your emergency supplies; you may want to consider giving one member a key to your house or apartment.
- Contact your city or county government’s emergency management agency or office. Many local offices keep lists of people with disabilities so they can be helped quickly in a sudden emergency.
- If you are dependent on dialysis or other life-sustaining treatment, know the location and availability of more than one facility.
- If you use medical equipment in your home that requires electricity, talk to your doctor or health care provider about how you can prepare for its use during a power outage.
- Wear medical alert tags or bracelets.
- If you have a communication disability, make sure your emergency information notes the best way to communicate with you.
- If you use an augmentative communications device or other assistive technologies, plan how you will evacuate with the devices or how you will replace equipment if lost or destroyed. Keep model information and note where the equipment came from (Medicaid, Medicare, private insurance, etc.)
- If you use assistive technology devices, such as white canes, CCTV, text-to-speech software, keep information about model numbers and where you purchased the equipment, etc.
- Plan how you will communicate with others if your equipment is not working, including laminated cards with phrases, pictures or pictograms.
- Keep Braille/text communication cards, if used, for 2-way communication.
- Preparedness tips for diabetics.
- The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services online tool helps people locate and access their electronic health records from a variety of sources.
- Plan for children with disabilities and people, who may have difficulty in unfamiliar or chaotic environments.
Get your benefits electronically
A disaster can disrupt mail service for days or weeks. If you depend on Social Security or other regular benefits, switching to electronic payments is a simple, significant way to protect yourself financially before disaster strikes. It also eliminates the risk of stolen checks. The U.S. Department of the Treasury recommends two safer ways to get federal benefits:
- Direct deposit to a checking or savings account. Federal benefit recipients can sign up by calling (800) 333-1795 or sign up online
- The Direct Express® prepaid debit card is designed as a safe and easy alternative to paper checks. Call toll-free at (877) 212-9991 or sign up online
It’s important to stay informed about what might happen and know what types of emergencies are likely to affect your region. For more information about preparing for emergencies for people with disabilities, click here for a printable document.
Information from Ready.gov
Billie Nicholson, Editor
updated July 2018
Additional Articles in September 2014 newsletter include:
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