Preparing for disaster for people with disabilities and other special needs
Posted at: 02/02/2012 11:59 AM
For the millions of Americans who have physical, medical, sensory or cognitive disabilities, emergencies such as fires, floods and acts of terrorism present a real challenge. The same challenge also applies to the elderly and other special needs populations. Protecting yourself and your family in the event of a disaster requires advance planning.
“We’ve come across situations where family members had not considered the difficulties in handling an emergency situation with someone who is disabled or has special needs,” said Leighton Jones, Director of Disaster Emergency Services at the Greater Rochester Red Cross. “Without proper planning, everyone struggles to find a safe and comforting resolution to the situation.”
Create a personal support network
A personal support network can help you prepare for a disaster by helping you identify and get the resources you need to cope effectively. Network members can also assist you after a disaster happens.
• Organize a network that includes your home, school, workplace, volunteer site, and any other places 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 can check to see if you need assistance. They should know your capabilities and needs, and be able to provide 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 since people work different shifts, take vacations and are not always available.
Complete a personal assessment
Decide what you will be able to do for yourself and what assistance you may need before, during and after a disaster. This will be based on the environment after the disaster, your capabilities and your limitations.
• Ask about the specific hazards that threaten your community (e.g. hurricanes, tornados, earthquakes) and about your risk from those hazards.
• Learn about community response plans, evacuation plans, and designated emergency shelters.
• Find out how local authorities will warn you of a pending disaster and how they will provide information to you during and after a disaster.
• Ask about special assistance programs available in the event of an emergency. Many communities ask people with a disability to register, usually with the local fire or police department, or the local emergency management office so needed help can be provided quickly in an emergency.
Make a plan
• Ask an out-of-town friend or relative to be your contact. Following a disaster, family members should call this person and tell them where they are.
• In the event of an emergency, you may become separated from household members. Choose a place right outside your home in case of a sudden emergency, like a fire. Choose a location outside your neighborhood in case you can’t return home.
• Your plan should include contact information for family members, members of your support network, caregivers, work, and school. Your plan should also include information for your out-of-town contact, meeting locations, emergency services, and the National Poison Control Center.
• In a fire or other emergency, you may need to evacuate on a moment’s notice. Be ready to get out fast.
• Take your pets with you if you evacuate. However, be aware that pets (other than service animals) usually are not permitted in emergency public shelters for health reasons. Prepare a list of family, friends, boarding facilities, veterinarians, and “pet-friendly” hotels that could shelter your pets in an emergency.
• Include in your plan how to prepare for each hazard that could impact your local community and how to protect yourself. For instance, most people shelter in a basement when there is a tornado warning, but most basements are not wheelchair-accessible.
Be prepared to care for family members and loved ones with disabilities and other special needs in times of emergency. For more information and details, visit www.redcross.org.
About the American Red Cross
The American Red Cross shelters, feeds and provides emotional support to victims of disasters; supplies nearly half of the nation's blood; teaches lifesaving skills; provides international humanitarian aid; and supports military members and their families. The Red Cross is a charitable organization—not a government agency—and depends on volunteers and the generosity of the American public to perform its mission. For more information, please visit www.redcross.org or join our blog at http://blog.redcross.org.