Emergency Preparedness for People with Disabilities
Not to be an alarmist, but everyone should give some thought to what they will do in an emergency situation. This is especially true of people with disabilities, who may need to take additional supplies, procedures, and resources into account. Every person’s situation is different, so take the time to consider yours and plan accordingly.
Why should I worry myself and my family?
Making a plan and putting together a kit should not cause worry, it should just be about being prepared. In the event that an emergency occurs, you’ll have the peace of mind of knowing that you’ve already considered the situation and gotten ready. You won’t be trying to figure things out on the fly in the heat of the moment. People with disabilities can face additional obstacles in reacting to emergencies and have additional requirements for supplies and services, so you should know what you might need and how to get it.
What am I preparing for?
Some people prepare for every possible scenario, from nuclear fallout to the zombie apocalypse. You do not have to cover everything that could ever (and will probably never) happen. What you should do is anticipate likely (and maybe a few less likely) emergencies. These might include a power outage, a fire, flooding, an earthquake, a hurricane and/or a tornado, and potentially having to evacuate your home. Knowing what to do and having supplies ready to go could make a huge difference.
What do I need to do?
- You should collect the contact information for your family and/or support network and work out a plan for how you’ll contact them in case of an emergency.
- You should have an emergency kit prepared, possibly more than one to keep in multiple locations. Your kit should include standard items such as food, water, batteries, and a radio. And, it should also include items for your unique circumstances like medical equipment, mobility supplies, and medications.
- If you or someone in your family might be sensitive to an unfamiliar or chaotic environment you can include items like headphones/earplugs, devices that can meet needs for stimulation, and even a small pop-up tent to provide some private space.
- If you have a service animal, make sure to include food and supplies for them in your kit as well.
- You should look into where you might go if you are directed to evacuate to a shelter. Make sure your shelter is accessible and will meet your needs, and know how to explain/convey what you need to emergency workers.
Find out more:
There are lots of resources available at www.fema.gov and www.ready.gov that provide useful information for everyone, including materials specifically addressing the needs and considerations of people with disabilities.
Samantha Dannick is an AAPD Intern.