Preparedness for People With Disabilities
well you prepare and how much you practice before a
disaster occurs will determine how successfully you
deal with and recover from disasters. Your personal
disaster preparation is a continuing process. It helps
you and your network identify, get, develop, manage,
and maintain the information and resources you will
need to deal with a disaster when it happens.
yourself based on the capabilities and limitations you
believe you will have after the disaster. Also keep
in mind that your usual ways of support and assistance
may not be available to you for some time during an
evacuation and after the disaster has occurred.
a personal disaster plan. This will help you organize
information you will need and activities you will do
during and after a disaster. Key items in a personal
disaster plan are described below. Keep copies of your
disaster plan in your disaster supplies kit, car, wallet
(behind driver's license or primary identification card),
wheelchair pack or at work, etc. Also, share your disaster
plan with your network.
an emergency information list that you and your network
can use. This list will let others know whom to call
if they find you unconscious, unable to speak, or if
they need to help you evacuate quickly. Besides emergency
out-of-town contacts, your list should include the names
and numbers of everyone in your network.
a relative or friend who lives more than 100 miles away
from you to be your "contact person." Keep
in mind that a caller is more likely to connect with
a long-distance number outside the disaster area than
with a local number within it. In fact, all family members
in a disaster area should call the contact person and
give their location and condition. Once this is done,
have the contact person give messages to your other
friends and relatives who live outside the disaster
area. This will help reduce calling into and out of
the affected area once the phones are working.
you have a communication disability, make sure your
emergency information list notes the best way to communicate
with you. This may be by writing notes, pointing to
letters, words, or pictures, or finding a quiet place.
a medical information list that you and your network
can use. The list should have information about your
medical providers. Also include the names of medications
you take and their dosages, when you take a medication,
the condition for which you take a medication, the name
of the doctor who prescribed it, and the doctor's phone
number. It is important to record any adaptive equipment
you use, your allergies and sensitivities, and communication
or cognitive difficulties you may have. Keep this list
attached to your emergency information list (described
copies of health insurance cards and related information
to the medical information list. Keep at least a seven-day
supply of essential medications with you at all times.
Work with your doctor(s) to get extra supplies of medications
and extra copies of prescriptions. Talk with your doctor
or pharmacist about what you should do if you do not
have enough medicine after a disaster and cannot immediately
get what you need. Be sure you ask about the shelf life
of your medications and the temperatures at which they
should be stored. Determine how often you should replace
stored medication. This helps ensure that a medicine's
effectiveness does not weaken because of long storage
If you take medications (such as methadone, chemotherapy,
or radiation therapy) administered to you by a clinic
or hospital, ask your provider how you should prepare
for a disruption caused by a disaster.
You Can Do to Prepare for a Disaster
safe places to go to during a disaster.
Identify a sturdy table or desk to get under
in each room. This is important because while
the earth is shaking, the movement of the ground
will probably make it difficult or impossible
for you to move any distance. If you cannot safely
get under a desk or table, move near an inside
wall of the building and cover your head and neck
as best you can. Decide how you will get there
when the earthquake begins. Lock your wheels if
you are in a wheelchair. In bed, pull the sheets
and blankets over you and use your pillow to cover
and protect your head and neck.
The lowest floor or below-ground area of your
home or workplace is safest. If there is no basement
or you cannot get there, choose a room without
windows, such as a bathroom or closet. Identify
where this safe place is and how you would get
or flood: If local officials have not told
you to leave the area, stay upstairs and in the
middle of the building, away from windows. Avoid
going to the lowest floor because hurricanes often
cause flooding. If you are Blind or visually impaired,
use a long cane in areas where debris may have
fallen or furniture may have shifted. This is
recommended even if you do not usually use a cane
information about how to prepare for disasters
that are specific to your area, contact your local
Red Cross chapter.
Keep your service animals with you in a safe place
at home, or take them with you to a shelter.
Install at least one smoke detector on each level
of your home, outside sleeping areas. If you are Deaf
or have hearing loss, install a system that has flashing
strobe lights to get your attention. If you have battery-operated
detectors, replace batteries at least once a year,
such as on your birthday, New Year's Day, etc. Test
smoke detectors once a month by pushing the test button.
Find the location of main utility cutoff valves and
switches in your home. Learn how and when to disconnect
them during an emergency. Try to do this yourself
(do not practice shutting off the gas). If you cannot
practice alone, arrange for your network to help.
Turn off utilities only if local officials tell you
to do so or if you believe there is an immediate threat
to life. For example, if you smell gas, see or hear
sparking wires, or see water gushing from broken pipes,
you should turn off utilities immediately. If you
turn gas off, only a professional should turn it back
on. If you cannot use the proper tools to turn utilities
off at the main valves or switches, turn off the valves
under sinks and by the stove. Also turn off all electrical
switches in every room. Be sure that the members of
your network know the following information:
to find each utility shutoff valve.
How to turn off each utility.
Whether you have the proper tools and where they
are located, or if your network members need to
bring tools with them.
Identify as many exits as possible from each room
and from the building you are in. Be sure to include
the windows as exits.
Make a floor plan of your home. You may want your
network to assist you with it. Include your primary
escape routes. On the floor plan, mark the rooms where
you spend a lot of time. Also, mark where your disaster
supplies kit is located. Give a copy of the floor
plan to your network. This will help them find you
and your supplies, if necessary.
When traveling, know the types of disasters that threaten
the area you will be visiting. Let the hotel or motel
front desk know of your possible needs in case of
an emergency. Describe the type of help you may need.
Remember to let your network members know your travel
plans: when you will leave and when you will return.
Prepare an evacuation plan before a disaster happens.
you have to leave your home or workplace, you
may need someone's help to evacuate safely, especially
down stairwells. If you need assistance during
an emergency and your network is not available,
find helpers and tell them about your condition.
Give them instructions on what you need and how
they can help you evacuate.
Practice using different ways out of a building,
especially if you are above the first floor in
a building with many stories. Remember, the elevator
may not work or should not be used. Decide what
type of equipment you may need for assistance
during an evacuation. If you cannot use stairs,
talk with your network about how you should be
evacuated. They may want to take the Red Cross
First Responder course or other training. This
can teach them the proper and safe way to lift
and carry you without injuring you or themselves.
If you need devices for an emergency escape, think
about your physical capabilities before making
a purchase. Store devices nearby, where you can
get to them easily. This may mean having more
than one emergency escape device available.
for yourself. Practice how to quickly explain
to people the best way to guide or move you and
your adaptive equipment, safely and rapidly.
Be ready to give brief, clear, and specific instructions
and directions to rescue personnel, either orally
or in writing. For example, say or write these
globulin from the freezer.
from the refrigerator.
device from under the bed."
do not straighten my knees. They are fused
in a bent position."
have had a brain injury. Please write down
all important instructions and information."
am Blind/visually impaired. Please let me
grasp your arm firmly."
am Deaf. Please write things down for me."
needed, ask for an accommodation from disaster
response personnel. For example, let a responder
or relief worker know if you cannot wait in lines
for long periods for items like water, food, and
disaster relief assistance. Practice how to explain
clearly and briefly why you need this assistance.
You may also want to write the explanation down
ahead of time.
your automobile fuel tank more than half full
at all times. Also, stock your vehicle with a
small disaster supplies kit . If you do not drive,
talk with your network about how you will leave
the area if the authorities advise an evacuation.
In some communities, local government agencies
offer transportation for persons needing assistance
during an evacuation. Ask your local emergency
management office if these services are available
in your area for persons with your disability.
familiar with the emergency or disaster/evacuation
plan for your office, school, or any other location
where you spend a lot of time. If the current
plan does not make arrangements for people with
disabilities, make sure the management at these
sites knows your needs. Be sure that you are included
in the overall plan for safety and evacuation
of the building.
an alternate place to stay, such as with friends,
family, or at a hotel or motel outside your area
if you have been told to leave your home. You
may have enough early warning time (as with a
slow-rising flood or hurricane) to leave before
the disaster occurs. This is especially important
if you live in a mobile home or trailer. Find
out if there are predesignated shelters in your
area and where they are.
a care plan for your pet. Plan for the care of
your pets if you have to evacuate your home. Pets,
unlike service animals, will not be allowed into
emergency shelters. So, it is best to decide now
where you will take your pet if you must leave.
Contact your local Red Cross chapter or Humane
Society for more information.
a care plan for your service animal. Service animals
are allowed in hotels or motels and Red Cross
shelters. However, these places cannot care for
your animal. When you leave your home, remember
to take a collar, harness, identification tags,
records of vaccinations, medications, and food
for your service animal with you.
Checklist for Personal Disaster Preparation
are many parts to a personal disaster plan. Fortunately,
they do not have to be completed all at once. As you
finish each part of your preparation, note the date
in the space provided below. Review and update this
Make an emergency information list.
and emergency contact information.
Emergency out-of-town contacts.
Names and numbers of everyone in your network.
Name and number of a relative or friend who
lives more than 100 miles away from you.
you have a communication disability, make sure
your emergency information list notes the best
way to communicate with you.
out a medical information list.
Medications you use.
Adaptive equipment and/or body system support
equipment you use.
Allergies and sensitivities.
Communication or cognitive difficultie
copies of health insurance cards and related information
to your medical information list.
at least a seven-day supply of essential medications
with you at all times.
extra copies of prescriptions.
with your doctor or pharmacist about what you should
do if you do not have enough medicine after a disaster.
Also, find out the shelf life of your medication
and the storage temperature it needs.
Determine how often you should replace stored medication
safe places to go to during an-
at least one smoke detector on each level of your
home, outside sleeping areas.
the location of utility cutoff valves and switches.
Become familiar with how to operate them.
as many exits as possible (but at least two) from
each room and from the building you are in.
a floor plan of your home. You may want your network
to help you do this. Include your primary escape
using different ways out of a building, especially
if you are above the first floor in a building with
what type of equipment you will need for assistance
during an evacuation.
ready to give brief, clear, specific instructions
and directions to rescue personnel.
you do not drive, talk with your network about how
you will leave the area if authorities advise an
your local emergency management office if transportation
services are available to persons with your disability
during an emergency evacuation. Find out how to
arrange to get this service.
familiar with the emergency or disaster evacuation
plan for your office, school, or any other location
where you spend a lot of time.
an alternate place to stay.
a care plan for your pet.
a care plan for your service animal.
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a Personal Assessment Disaster