PEOPLE WITH DISABILITIES & MEDICAL CONDITIONS
For people with disabilities, disaster preparedness is all the more important because there are special needs that must be addressed and planned for. Because your usual ways of support and assistance may not be available to you during or for some time after an emergency, it will be important to have a strong support network. And the more you can prepare and practice for an emergency situation, the more likely it is that you will be able to successfully deal with and recover from a disaster.
If you or someone you know has a medical condition or disability, keep the following guidelines in mind as you prepare your emergency plan:
- Create a support network to help in an emergency. Tell the people in your support network where you keep your emergency supplies. Give one member of your support network a key to your house or apartment.
- Make an emergency plan that includes the following:
- An emergency information list to 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 support network. If you have a communication disability, make sure your emergency information list notes the best way to communicate with you.
- A medical information list with information about your medical providers. This should 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, the doctor's phone number, and your pharmacy location and phone number. It is important to record any adaptive equipment you use, your allergies and sensitivities, and communication or cognitive difficulties you may have. Attach copies of health insurance cards and related information.
- Maintain several copies of your emergency plan. Keep copies in your emergency supply kit, car, wallet wheelchair pack, etc. Share your emergency plan with your support network.
- Keep at least a seven-day supply of essential medications with you at all times—longer, if possible. Work with your doctor(s) to get extra supplies of medications and extra copies of prescriptions. Determine how often you should replace stored medication. This helps ensure that a medicine's effectiveness does not weaken because of long storage time.
- 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 hearing impaired, install a system that has flashing strobe lights to get your attention.
- Find the location of main utility cutoff valves and switches in your home. Learn how and when to disconnect them during an emergency. If you need assistance, ask someone in your support network to help.
- Identify as many exits as possible from each room and from the building you are in. Make sure that people in your support network are familiar with the floorplan of your home and where exits are located.
- Plan how you would evacuate if necessary. If you have to leave your home or workplace, you may need someone's help, especially down stairwells. Give your support network (or other people who may be there to help) instructions on what you need and how they can help you evacuate.
- Be ready to give brief, clear, and specific instructions and directions to rescue personnel, either orally or in writing.
- If you do not drive, talk with your support 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. Contact them in advance, if you believe you will need assistance.
- Become 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.
- Have 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.
- Contact your city or county government's emergency information management office. Many local offices keep lists of people with disabilities so they can be located quickly in a sudden emergency.
- Wear medical alert tags or bracelets to help identify your disability.
- If you are dependent on dialysis or other life sustaining treatment, know the location and availability of more than one facility.
- Show others how to operate your wheelchair. Also, know the size and weight of your wheelchair, in addition to whether or not it is collapsible, in case it has to be transported.