Individuals with Disabilities or Access & Functional Needs
If you have a disability or an access and functional need, you may need to take additional steps to prepare for emergencies.
- Stock a basic disaster supply kit.
- Inventory what you use every day to live independently. Identify the essential things that you will need to be able to survive for 3 to 5 days or longer, if people cannot get to you.
- Stock these custom essentials in your kit. For example, your kit may contain items such as durable medical equipment, assistive technology, food for special diets, prescription medicines, diabetic supplies, hearing aids and batteries, a TTY, manual wheelchair, and supplies for a service animal.
One of the biggest challenges to your safety and access to information is loss of electrical power. You should plan alternate ways to charge your communication and assistive technology devices before disaster strikes.
Plan to stay independent during times when services may be unavailable during an emergency.
Create a Support Network
- Plan how you will contact your family members by calling, or emailing, or texting agreed upon friends or relatives if you’re unable to contact each other directly.
- Let people in your support network know of your emergency plans. Tell them where you keep your emergency supplies. They may be able to assist you in ensuring that your assistive devices will go with you if you have to evacuate your home.
- If you use oxygen or other medical equipment, show friends how to use these devices so they can move you or help you evacuate. Practice your plan with your personal support network.
- Discuss assistance you may need with your employer in the event of an emergency.
- Create a plan and share it with neighbors, friends, co-workers and relatives so they know what you need and how to contact you if the power goes out.
- Contact your city, county, or state office of emergency management, the local fire and police department, disability organizations, such as the local Independent Living Center, or community groups. Discussyour specific needs and/or the needs of a family member and find out what assistance or services are available. Some state emergency management offices or agencies keep a voluntary registry of people with disabilities.
Collect Important Information and Phone Numbers
- Keep a list of contacts, including family, and friends and list the best way to reach them in an emergency.
- Keep a list of the local non-profit or community-based organizations that could provide assistance.
- Maintain a list of phone numbers for your doctors, pharmacy, and the medical facilities you use.
- Make copies of medical prescriptions and doctors’ orders for assistive devices that you use. List where you got the devices from and see if your local pharmacy is willing to provide a list of your prescription medicine and devices for you.
- Get copies and maintain electronic versions of health records from doctors, hospitals, pharmacies and other sources and store them, for personal reference. HHS provides an online tool intended to help people locate and access their electronic health records from a variety of sources. http://healthit.gov/bluebutton
- Make copies of medical insurance cards, Medicare or Medicaid cards, physicians’ contact information, a list of your allergies, and your health history.
- Even if you do not use a computer, put important information onto a flash drive for easy transport in the event of an evacuation.
- If you own a medical alert tag or bracelet, wear it.
- Keep track of which TV stations broadcast news that is captioned or signed
- Find out if your community has a public warning system and if so, what the warning sounds like.
- When traveling or in an unfamiliar area, know what type of alert and warning services are used and where to find them (station, network, etc.)
- If you receive dialysis or other life sustaining medical treatment, identify the location and availability of more than one facility and work with your provider to develop your personal emergency plan.
Make Backup Plans to Receive Medical Treatment
- If you work with a medical provider or organization to receive life sustaining medical treatment such as dialysis, oxygen, or cancer treatment, work with the provider to identify alternative locations where you could continue to receive treatment.
Make Backup Plans to Receive In-Home Care
- If you receive in-home assistance or personal assistance services, work with your agency and develop a backup plan for continued care.
- Ask how you can continue to receive services from providers such as a Center for Independent Living, Meals-on-Wheels, or medical and life alert services.
Stay Mobile with Accessible Transportation
- Plan ahead for accessible transportation that you may need for evacuation or getting to a medical clinic. Work with local services such as Older Adults Transportation Service (OATS) to identify your local or private accessible service.
Plan for Possible Evacuation
- During an emergency, be ready to explain to first responders and emergency officials that you need to evacuate and choose to go to a shelter with your family, service animal, caregiver, personal assistant, and your assistive technology devices.
Note that people should only be referred to a medical shelter when they have acute health care needs and would typically be admitted to a hospital.
Plan for Power Outages Before They Happen
- Before disaster strikes, you may register with your power company. They may alert you when power will be restored in an unplanned outage and before a planned outage.
- In the event that you cannot be without power, plan for how you will have power backup. If possible, have backup battery, generator or alternate electrical resources.
- Make sure that devices that will maintain power to your equipment during electric outages are charged. Watch this video about severe weather (with ASL) to learn more.
- Purchase extra batteries for motorized wheelchairs or other battery-operated medical or assistive technology devices. Keep the batteries charged at all times. Consider whether you could charge your wheelchair from your car.
- Backup chargers for a cell phone could include a hand-crank USB cell phone emergency charger, a solar charger, or a battery pack. Some weather radios have a built in hand crank charger.
- Backup chargers for a laptop or tablet could include a 12V USB adapter that plugs into a car, an inverter, or a battery jump pack with an USB port.
- People who are deaf or hard of hearing can get important information on a cell phone or pager. Sign up for emergency emails and text messages on your cell phone from your local government alert system.
- Plan how you are going to receive emergency information if you are unable to use a TV, radio or computer. This may include having an adaptive weather alert system to alert you in the event of severe weather.
- Plan for medications that require refrigeration.
- Having flashlights available will also facilitate lip-reading or signing in the dark.
Local and Regional Information
- Bookmark your State Emergency Management Agency or office to learn about the disasters that can happen in your area and for important preparedness and disaster information.
- Disability.gov contains information on disability programs and services. Search nationally or search by state to find information on emergency preparedness.
- Preparing for Disaster for People with Disabilities and other Special Needs – American Red Cross.
- Fire Safety for People with Disabilities – U.S. Fire Administration
- Emergency Preparedness Checklist for Personal Assistive Services Users – University of California
- Importance of Preparedness for the Disability Community (Video with ASL) – Marcie Roth, Director of FEMA’s Office of Disability Integration and Coordination.
- Emergency Preparedness Supplies and tips for the Disability Community Tips (Video with ASL) – Ready Georgia from GEMA
- Feeling Safe, Being Safe (Videos with captions in English and Spanish) – California Department of Developmental Services. Also includes a “My Personal Safety in an Emergency” worksheet.
- Many different emergency preparedness videos (with ASL) – Northeast Texas Public Health District. Also includes Braille and large print versions of documents.
Additional Emergency Supplies
Deaf or Hearing Loss
- Extra batteries and a spare charger for hearing aids and/or personal assistive listening device. Keep records of where you got your hearing aids and exact types of batteries.
- Consider how you are going to receive emergency information if you are unable to use a TV, radio or computer.
- Use a NOAA Weather Radio for Deaf and Hard of Hearing that has an adaptive weather alert system.
- Many new cell phones and smart phones have an alerting capability that includes specific sounds and vibrations that can be set to signal users of an emergency.
- Keep a TTY as part of your emergency supply kit.
- Keep a pen and paper in case you have to communicate with someone who does not understand American Sign Language.
- Write an explanation of your needs in advance. If you need an assistive device or an interpreter, write it down. For example: “I use American Sign Language, I have a hearing loss and I need an interpreter, I need my (name of device).”
Blind or Vision Loss
- Write down on a sheet of paper what your needs are. If you need an assistive device or service animal, include it on the paper. For example: “I am blind and I need my (name of device). Or “I am deaf-blind and I use (name of device) to communicate.”
- Keep Braille communication cards, if used.
- Mark emergency supplies with Braille labels. Keep a list of your emergency supplies on a portable flash drive or make an audio file that is kept in a safe place where you can access it.
- Keep a Braille TTY as part of your emergency supply kit.
- Have an extra mobility cane, if used.
- If you have a speech disability, consider carrying alaminated personal communication board, if you might need assistance being understood. This could be one or several 3”x 5” cards containing written messages.
- If you use a motorized wheelchair, if possible, have a lightweight manual chair available as a backup. Know the size and weight of your wheelchair in addition to whether or not it is collapsible, in case it has to be transported.
- Purchase an extra battery for a motorized wheelchair or other battery-operated medical or assistive technology devices. If you are unable to purchase an extra battery, find out what agencies, organizations, or local charitable groups can help you with the purchase.
- Consider keeping a patch kit or can of sealant for flat tires and/or extra inner tube if wheelchair or scooter is not puncture proof. (from Nusura/CalEMA)
- Extra mobility cane or walker, if you use one.
Specialized Medications and Supplies
- If possible, stock extra over the counter and prescription medicine, oxygen, insulin, catheters, or other medical supplies you use.
- Keep medical alert tags or bracelets or written descriptions of your disability and support needs, in case you are unable to describe the situation in an emergency.
- Make copies of medical prescriptions, doctor’s orders and the style and serial numbers of the support devices you use.
- Make plans in advance for your service animal in the event that you stay at home or you evacuate.
- Stock food, water, and medications. Also have identification, licenses, and a favorite toy for your service animal.
- If you go to a public shelter, by law all service animals (but no other animals) are allowed inside.
- Plan for someone else to take care of your service animal if you are not able to following a disaster.