The best time to prepare for an emergency is well ahead of time. When you prepare from a position of safety and calm, you and your caregivers can better cope with an emergency or disaster situation when it happens. An emergency or disaster may present unique challenges for people with disabilities and functional needs. If you or someone you care for has a disability or functional need, you may have to take additional steps to prepare yourself and your family.
Here’s what you need to get ready for an emergency or disaster:
- Form a Personal Support Network: These are the people you should involve in your emergency planning and can help you in an emergency situation. They include your nearby family, friends, caregivers, neighbors, and co-workers. Be sure to give at least one trusted member of your support network a key to your house or apartment. Also, let members of your support group know where you store your emergency kit. Most importantly, you should not rely on just one person but have at least three or more people you can call on for help.
- Complete a Personal Assessment: Make a list of your personal needs and your resources for meeting them in a disaster environment. You need to take into account what you will be able to do for yourself and what assistance you may need before, during, and after a disaster such as a hurricane. This should include daily living needs (personal care/personal care equipment, adaptive feeding devices, and electricity-dependent equipment), and your ability to get around before, during, and after a disaster (cleaning up disaster debris, transportation, and blocked roads), and evacuating if necessary.
- Get Informed: Know about the specific hazards that threaten your community (hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes, flooding, etc.), learn about community disaster plans and community warning systems, and find out more about special assistance programs. Mississippi citizens with disabilities and access or functional needs should consider getting to know their local first responders and emergency managers.
- Create an Emergency Kit: Your emergency kit should have supplies specific to your functional needs. A complete list of suggested items can be found in the links below.
The Disability Integration Advisor is available to provide emergency preparedness training to groups of people with disabilities, family members, service providers, and primary caregivers and it can be designed to meet their specific needs.
Other Helpful Tips:
- Wear medical alert tags/bracelets to help identify your disability/functional need.
- Practice how to quickly explain your condition and your adaptive equipment to someone who is helping you.
- Wheelchair users need to have more than one exit from their residence that is wheelchair accessible. Practice how to escape from your home.
- Know the size and weight of your wheelchair, in addition to whether or not it is collapsible, in case it has to be transported.
- If you are dependent on dialysis or other life-sustaining treatment or equipment, know the locations and availability of more than one facility in your area.
BUILDING A SPECIAL DISASTER KIT
In addition to having your basic survival supplies, an emergency kit should contain items to meet your individual needs in various emergencies. Consider the items you use on a daily basis and which ones you may need to add to your kit.
Tips for People who are deaf or hard of hearing:
- A weather radio with text display and a flashing alert
- Extra hearing-aid batteries
- A TTY
- Pen and paper in case you have to communicate with someone who does not know sign language
Tips for People who are blind or have low vision:
- Mark emergency supplies with Braille labels or large print. Keep a list of your emergency supplies, and where you bought it, on a portable flash drive, or make an audio file that is kept in a safe place where you can access it.
- Keep a Braille, or Deaf-Blind communications device as part of your emergency supply kit.
Tips for People with speech disability:
- 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, where the equipment came from (Medicaid, Medicare, private insurance, etc.)
- Plan how you will communicate with others if your equipment is not working, including laminated cards with phrases and/or pictograms.
Tips for People with a mobility disability:
- If you use a power wheelchair, if possible, have a lightweight manual chair available as a backup. Know the size and weight of your wheelchair in addition to whether or not it is collapsible, in case it has to be transported.
- Show others how to operate your wheelchair. Know the size and weight of your wheelchair, in addition to whether or not it is collapsible, in case it has to be transported.
- Purchase an extra battery for a power wheelchair or other battery-operated medical or assistive technology devices. If you are unable to purchase an extra battery, find out what agencies, organizations, or local charitable groups can help you with the purchase. Keep extra batteries on a trickle charger at all times.
- Consider keeping a patch kit or can of sealant for flat tires and/or an extra inner tube if the wheelchair or scooter is not puncture-proof.
- Keep an extra mobility device such as a cane or walker, if you use one.
- If you use a seat cushion to protect your skin or maintain your balance, and you must evacuate without your wheelchair, take your cushion with you.
Tips for individuals who may need behavioral support:
- Plan for children with disabilities and people including individuals who may have post-traumatic stress syndrome (PTSD), and who may have difficulty in unfamiliar or chaotic environments.
- This may include handheld electronic devices loaded with movies and games (and spare chargers), sheets and twine or a small pop-up tent to decrease visual stimulation in a busy room or to provide instant privacy, headphones to decrease auditory distractions, and comfort snacks and toys that meet needs for stimulation.
- At least a week-long supply of prescription medicines, along with a list of all medications, dosage, and any allergies
- Extra eyeglasses and hearing-aid batteries
- Extra wheelchair batteries (manual wheelchair if possible) and/or oxygen
- A list of the style and the serial number of medical devices. Include special instructions for operating your equipment if needed.
- Copies of medical insurance and Medicare cards
- Contact information for doctors, relatives, or friends who should be notified if you are hurt.
- Pet food, extra water, collar with ID tag, medical records, and other supplies for your service animal
- Handheld electronic devices loaded with movies and games (and spare chargers), headphones to decrease auditory distractions, and comfort snacks and toys that meet needs for stimulation.