MONTGOMERY, Ala. -- Disasters can be hard to deal with for anyone, but for those with disabilities and other special needs, disasters present a real challenge. Because emergencies and disasters can strike quickly and without warning and can force you to evacuate your neighborhood or confine you to your home, having a plan will greatly reduce the chance of injury and the stress of dealing with a disaster. Officials from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the Alabama Emergency Management Agency recommend that you start preparing now, because hurricane season is less than three months away.
You are in the best position to plan for your own safety as you are best able to know your functional abilities and possible needs during and after an emergency or disaster situation. You can cope with disaster by preparing in advance with your family and caregivers. You will need to create a personal support network and complete a personal assessment.
Ask about special assistance programs available in the event of an emergency. Many communities ask people with a disability to register, usually with the local fire or police department, or the local emergency management office so needed help can be provided quickly in an emergency. Let your personal caregiver know you have registered, and with whom. If you are electric-dependent, be sure to register with your local utility company.
- Find out what emergency plans are in place in your community, workplace, and service agencies. Look over whether those plans have considered your specific needs.
- Identify what the plan is for notifying people when a disaster may be on its way or is actually occurring.
- Consider how a disaster might impact your daily routines. Make a list of your specific needs before, during and after a disaster.
Know Your Resources
Decide what you will be able to do for yourself and what assistance you may need before, during and after a disaster. This will be based on the environment after the disaster, your capabilities and your limitations. Think about the following questions as you assess your disaster-related needs. Base your plan on your lowest anticipated level of functioning.
- Do you use communication devices?
- Do you depend on accessible transportation to get to work, doctor’s appointments, or to other places in your community?
- Do you receive medical treatments (e.g. dialysis) on a regular basis?
- Do you need assistance with personal care?
- Do you rely on electrically dependent equipment or other durable equipment?
- Do you use mobility aids such as a walker, cane, or a wheelchair?
- Do you have a service animal?
In addition to knowing local and state emergency plans, you should also have disaster supplies that pertain to your needs. In general, you should have enough food and water to last 72 hours after a disaster, and you should have a ready-to-go emergency kit with the following items:
- Medical equipment and assistive devices (glasses, hearing aids, catheters, augmentative communication devices, canes, walkers). Label each with your name and contact information. Be sure to have extra batteries and chargers.
- Medications, including a list of the prescription name, dosage, frequency, doctor and pharmacist. Also consider if medications need to be refrigerated and if so, bring a cooler with an ice pack or other coolant system.
- List of emergency contact information.
- Copies of important documents.
- Flashlight and radio with extra batteries.
- Sanitation and hygiene items. Including soap, denture care, absorbent pads, etc.
- Supplies for a service animal including food, identification tags, proof of up-to-date vacc...