Preparedness for People With Disabilities
find the best ways to prepare for a disaster, consider
the following questions:
kinds of disasters may occur in your area?
How are residents informed of possible disasters?
What are the effects of disasters on you and your
your local American Red Cross chapter, your city/county
emergency management office, or your local fire department.
You can get information about the kinds of disasters
that happen in your area and how often they occur. Check
with your insurance agent about whether your insurance
policies cover the types of disasters that can happen
where you live. For example, regular insurance does
not cover floods. You must have a flood insurance policy
to cover flood damages.
the difference between a "watch" and a "warning"
National Weather Service gives information to the public
about some severe weather events, such as thunderstorms,
winter storms, hurricanes, floods, flash floods, and
tornadoes. Listen or watch for these terms:
A "watch" means that severe weather is
threatening and may occur in your area. Continue to
listen to the radio or watch television for information
A "warning" means that the event is happening
now; it is imminent or has been seen on weather radar.
This is the time to immediately protect yourself.
events happen very quickly, so warnings may not be issued
or you may not receive them. Always pay attention to
the weather around you. Take action when you think severe
weather may be moving into your area, even if no official
warning is given on the radio or television.
what your environment is likely to look like after the
have many effects. Some are predictable and others are
not. You should know what can happen and what your environment
may be like after the disaster. It is our goal to help
you deal with the hardships of a disaster. And you can.
But first we must take a realistic look at what can
happen during a disaster. Consider the following circumstances:
disasters that have high winds and during earthquakes,
a great deal of shaking may take place. This can break
things and scatter debris. Hanging objects, such as
plants, mirrors, and pictures, are likely to fall.
Books may be flung from bookcases and the bookcases
may fall. In your office, file cabinets, computers,
and other unsecured items may fall. Acoustical ceiling
tiles and all of the dust behind them may drop. Large
and heavy furniture, such as couches, chairs, beds,
and dressers, may move and block your pathway completely
or in part.
Floods, earthquakes, and winter storms can cause sidewalks
and roadways to crack or become impassable. Roads
and sidewalks may be covered by mud, water, or debris,
so you may not be able to tell where they begin and
end. Mud, sand, and other materials may be left behind
for long periods. In floods, the water may be moving
very rapidly. This can keep you from leaving an area.
There could be so much debris on the streets that
it would take weeks to clear it away. This could leave
you stranded at home and keep caregivers from reaching
Familiar landmarks you use to help guide you may move
or be destroyed, both indoors and out.
If you have a service animal, such as a guide dog,
hearing dog, or personal-care monkey, the animal may
be hurt or too frightened to work after a disaster.
Your home may be destroyed or isolated. Or, it could
have enough damage to make it unlivable for a long
Your usual ways of getting groceries, medications,
and medical supplies may be disrupted. It may take
several days before stores reopen, so you may not
be able to readily replace even basic items related
to your disability, like hearing-aid batteries and
You may not be able to carry out your daily activities
as you did before the disaster.
You may have a hard time reaching or getting help
from police and fire departments, ambulance services,
doctors, hospitals, pharmacies, veterinarians, markets,
personal assistants, and other home health providers.
Utilities like electricity, water, gas, and phone
service may be disrupted for a long time.
You may not be able to do the following:
or heat your home.
or receive phone calls to or from your doctor,
fire department, ambulance service, support network,
and others. You may not be able to use telephone
relay systems and/or teletype equipment because
systems may be overloaded or destroyed.
your home. You may have to move or communicate
in the dark.
emergency information from your television or
equipment dependent on power, such as battery
chargers, oxygen, suction devices, or home dialysis
cash through an automatic teller machine (ATM).
Also, banks may be closed.
vehicles with gas since pumps may not be working.
some other effects of a disaster
transportation may not be working. Routes and schedules
may be changed. Public and private wheelchair transport
services or paratransits may not be operating.
Roads may be damaged or blocked. Road signs may be
down. Traffic lights and walking signals used to cross
the street may not be working properly, or at all.
This can disrupt cues used to cross the street. Travel
time may be longer because of detours and added traffic.
Noisy surroundings, like a shelter, may interfere
with how well your hearing aid functions. Also, the
vibratory cues you are used to may be disturbed. A
noisy environment can be very disorienting for people
with visual impairments, as well.
You may need temporary housing for pets.
how disaster-related stress may affect your disability
a disaster can be overwhelming. Stress makes many medical
conditions worse. Everyone affected by a disaster may
experience one or several of the following symptoms:
Irritability, restlessness, overexcitability
Depression, moodiness, crying
Feelings of apathy, diminished interest in usual activities
Feelings of isolation, detachment, estrangement
Feelings of guilt about surviving
Denial or constriction of feelings
Flashbacks or unwelcome memories of the disaster
An exaggerated reaction to being startled
Recurrent nightmares about the disaster or about other
Inability to fall or stay asleep
Slowness of thought
Inability to express yourself verbally or in writing
Inability to make judgments and decisions
Loss of ability to think of alternatives or prioritize
Nausea, upset stomach, other gastrointestinal problems
Hot or cold spells; sweating or chills
Numbness or tingling in body parts
Heavy feeling in arms and/or legs
Feeling a "lump" in your throat
Trouble catching your breath; rapid breathing
Increase in allergies, colds, or flu
Outbursts of anger or frequent arguments
Loss of objectivity
Withdrawal, social isolation, distancing yourself
Increased use of alcohol, tobacco, or other drugs
Avoidance of activities or places that remind you
of the disaster
any of these symptoms affect your ability to function,
seek medical attention from your doctor or a mental
health provider familiar with the effects of disasters.
Some people may never have a reaction. Others may have
delayed reactions that can show up days, weeks, or even
months after the disaster happens. Not everyone has
reactions right away. These symptoms may go and then
come back again when something makes you think about
a disaster, be sure to talk to someone about how you
are feeling: a member of the clergy, a counselor, or
someone in the Employee Assistance Program provided
by your employer. Also, the Red Cross has disaster mental
health professionals who can help you deal with the
stress related to your disaster experience.
that service animals may also suffer emotional trauma.
Get their daily routine back to normal as soon as possible.
This will make it easier for them to serve you as before.
how a disaster may affect your independence
are used to being in a certain environment. However,
a disaster can change your ability to deal with this
environment. It is important that you anticipate for
your lowest level of functioning for your personal disaster
plan. Your condition may become worse because of physical
or emotional reactions to stress. For example, people
who do not need the aid of devices on a daily basis
may need a wheelchair after a disaster.
a disaster, you may need to ask for help to do things
you usually would have done independently. Understandably,
this may make you feel especially vulnerable. You may
need help putting your home back in order, filling out
forms, or providing documentation and information to
disaster relief agencies. This can add to the stress
you may be feeling. A personal support network that
knows your needs may anticipate some of them and make
your recovery easier and less stressful.
how to reduce the impact of a disaster on you
that you know what may happen, what can you do to reduce
the effects of the disaster and to develop a personal
by considering the following actions:
a personal support network.
Complete a personal assessment of your needs.
Collect information and take actions that will help
you meet your needs during evacuations and after the
Gather essential supplies you will need during and
after a disaster, especially those specific to your
Make your home or office safer.
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