LEXINGTON, Ky. -- Disaster preparedness takes on added dimensions for people with disabilities or other special needs.
If you or someone you care for has special needs, your disaster kit may require more than the standard items of food, water and supplies. Items to consider including are:
- Medications for at least a week. It's also a good idea to have copies of prescriptions and dosage information.
- Medical supplies and equipment such as eye glasses, hearing aids and batteries, wheelchair and batteries, or oxygen. Be sure to include pertinent operating instructions.
- Medical insurance information and cards.
- Medical records and other important documents.
- Names and contact information for medical providers and personal support assistants.
If you have a service animal, be sure to include food, water, identification tags and supplies. And if you have a communication disability, make sure your emergency information indicates the best way to communicate with you. It also is important to have cash or travelers checks in your kit in case you need to purchase supplies.
Your Personal Support Network
A disaster plan for someone with special needs begins with a personal support network. Make a list of family, friends and others who assist you on a daily basis. Talk with them and decide who will help you in an emergency.
If you undergo routine treatments by a clinic, hospital or home health worker, talk to them about your emergency plans. With their help, identify backup service providers within your area and where you may evacuate. If you use medical equipment that requires electricity to operate, talk with your health care provider about preparing for a power outage.
Consider your transportation needs and every aspect of your daily routine then come up with a written plan. Share your plan with everyone in your support network. Be sure to include a friend or relative in another area who would not be affected by the same emergency.
Depending on your circumstances and the nature of the emergency, one of the first important decisions is whether you stay or go. If you are specifically told to evacuate or seek medical treatment, do so immediately. Otherwise monitor news bulletins and make your decision accordingly. In some cases it may be safer to shelter in place. If you must evacuate to a public shelter, only service animals will be allowed inside. You will need to make other arrangements for your pets.
Contact your local emergency management agency as you draw up your emergency plan. Some offices maintain registers of people with disabilities so you can be located and assisted quickly in a disaster. A complete list of Kentucky counties emergency management offices can be found at www.kyem.ky.gov/about/countyemdirectors.htm. Go to www.ready.gov to find links to government offices in your area.
Learn more about the potential emergencies where you live and the appropriate way to respond to them. According to www.ready.gov, Kentucky is prone to natural disasters such as Floods, Landslide and Debris Flow, Thunderstorms, Tornadoes, and Winter Storms and Extreme Cold. For Americans, preparedness also must account for man-made disasters including bio-hazards, chemical spills or terrorist attacks.
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