PREPARE AND PREVENT
People with special needs should include those considerations in their emergency and preparedness planning. It is important to remember that the usual methods of support and assistance may not be available for some time during an evacuation and after the disaster has occurred. Make a personal disaster plan to help organize information during and after a disaster. Share your disaster plan with your support network. Keep copies of your disaster plan in your supply kit, car, wallet, wheelchair pack or at work. Identify safe places to go. If local officials have not told you to leave the area, stay upstairs and in the middle of the building away from windows. 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 indoors.
Keep your service animals with you in a safe place at home or take them with you to a shelter.
If you do need to evacuate to a shelter, confim upon arrival that the shelter can meet any special care needs that you may require. If your shelter cannot, consider seeking an alternative shelter that can meet your needs if the situation allows.
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. 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.
You should be aware of what hazards exist in your home and how they can be corrected. Repair defective electrical wiring, secure large objects, repair cracks in ceilings or foundations, and have vents cleaned by a professional. Basically, you want to be aware of and correct any potential hazards, anything that can move, fall, break, cause a fire or impede your mobility.
Identify as many exits as possible from each room and from your building. Be sure to include the windows as exits.
Make a floor plan of your home, including primary escape routes. On the floor plan mark the rooms where you spend a lot of time. Also, mark where your disaster supply kit is located. Give a copy to your network to help them find you and your supplies, if necessary.
Prepare an evacuation plan beforehand. If 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.
Practice using different ways out of a building. Remember, the elevators may not work or should not be used.
If you need devices for an emergency 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.
Advocate for yourself. Practice how to quickly explain 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 such as: “Please take my… Oxygen tank, Wheelchair, Gamma Globulin from the freezer, Insulin from the refrigerator or communications device from under the bed. or “I am blind/visually impaired. Please let me grasp your arm firmly.” or “I am deaf. Please write things down for me.”
When 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.
Keep a small disaster supply kit in your vehicle and maintain more than a half tank of fuel at all times. If you do not drive, talk with you network about how you will leave the area if the authorities advise an evacuation.
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 know your needs.
Have a care plan for your pet/service animals if you have to evacuate. Pets will not be allowed into emergency shelters. Service animals are allowed in motels and Red Cross shelters. Remember to take a collar, harness, ID, medications and food for the animal.
Get the appropriate information. Call your American Red Cross chapter or County Emergency Management Office to find out which disasters occur in your area and how to prepare for each. Ask about special aid that may be available to you.
If you currently have a personal care attendant obtained from an agency, check to see if the ageny has a plan for emergencies.
If you or someone in your household uses a wheelchair, make more than one exit from your home wheelchair accessible in cse the primary exit is blocked. Plan and practice how to excape from your home.
Consider getting a medical alert system that will allow you to call for help if you are immobilized.
Keep emergency telephone numbers posted near phones and teach your children how and when to call for help.
If you live in an apartment, ask the management to identify and mark accessible exts and know in advance where they are located.