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Disaster Preparedness for People With Disabilities


A personal support network (sometimes called a self-help team, but referred to only as a "network" in this booklet) can help you prepare for a disaster. They can do this by helping you identify and get the resources you need to cope effectively with a disaster. Your network can help you practice vital activities, like evaluating your home or workplace. Network members can also assist you after a disaster happens. You should put together your network before you assess what your needs will be during and after a disaster. First consider the ways to develop your personal support network, then turn to page 11 for suggestions on how you can prepare for a disaster.

  • Organize a network for your home, school, workplace, volunteer site, and any other place where you spend a lot of time. Members of your network can be roommates, relatives, neighbors, friends, and co-workers. They should be people you trust and who could check to see if you need assistance. They should know your capabilities and needs, and offer help within minutes.
    Do not depend on only one person. Include a minimum of three people in your network for each location where you regularly spend a lot of time during the week.
  • Think of what your needs would be during a disaster and discuss these with each of your networks. Complete a written assessment of your needs with your network in the space provided in the following section. This can help your network members learn the best ways to assist you and offer additional ideas for you to think about.
  • Give your network members copies of your emergency infor- mation list, medical information list, disability-related supplies and special equipment list, evacuation plans, relevant emergency documents, and personal disaster plan when you complete them.
  • Arrange with your network to check on you immediately if local officials give an evacuation order or if a disaster occurs. Do this before an emergency happens so that your network members can help you when you need them. Also, ask your network to notify you of an emergency you may not know about. For example, if a siren or loudspeaker system notifies a neighborhood of a disaster and you are Deaf or have hearing loss, be sure that your network knows to give you this information. Ask them to give you any other disaster-related information that is not already in writing, such as radio information about the disaster or the location of shelters.
  • Agree on how you and your network will contact each other during an emergency. Do not count on the telephones working. Also, choose a signal for help that you both understand. Signals can be shouting, knocking on the wall, or using a whistle, bell, or high-pitched noisemaker. Visual signals could include hanging a sheet outside your window.
  • Give the members of your network all the necessary keys they may need to get into your home, car, etc.
  • Show your network how to operate and safely move the equipment you use for your disability, if necessary. Ask them to "practice" with any of your special equipment. This will help them feel more comfortable when using it during an emergency.
  • Make sure your service animal knows the people in your network. This will make it easier for the animal to accept care from someone other than yourself.
  • Explain to your network any assistance for personal care that you may need. Give them written instructions on how best to assist you and your animals.
  • Label your equipment and attach instruction cards on how to use and move each item. Laminate the instruction cards for added durability.
  • Inform your network about any areas on your body where you have reduced feeling. Have them check these areas for injuries after a disaster if you cannot check them yourself.
  • Practice your plan. Based on your knowledge of the disasters in your area, simulate any problems or obstacles you may experience. Have the members of your network practice how to help you, and familiarize them with any adaptive equipment you may need.
  • Choose an emergency meeting place you are familiar with where you and others can reunite after exiting a building. You should select a meeting place for each area where you spend a lot of time.
  • Select with your network a signal that you can use to let them know you are okay and have left the site.
  • Give your network your travel dates if you will be traveling.
  • Review and revise your personal assessment and disaster plan regularly, or as your condition changes. Your network should help in this review as well. You will also find that as you and your network practice, all of you will find problems and solutions you have not thought of before.

The trusting relationship you develop with the members of your network should be mutual. Learn about each other's needs and how to assist each other during an emergency.

<< Table of Contents      < Understanding Disasters      Completing a Personal Assessment >


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