Be Prepared!

In response to the recent disasters on the East Coast, and in follow-up to Scott’s post on August 30th, I researched emergency preparedness techniques for those with disabilities and wanted to inform everyone about how to prepare for any disaster. Be prepared to get informed:

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s, FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency), assists people affected by natural disasters. Here, they have the ODIC (Office of Disability Integration and Coordination); this division provides consumers, cities, and others with information to help prepare for disasters. There is a lot of emergency preparedness information people need to know before a disaster strikes. Someone who has specific medical needs, mobility concerns, medications, will need to come up with a disaster relief plan as well as notify their caretakers or family about their plan, so everyone knows what to do, where to go, and who to call. If you have never been in an emergency and don’t know how you need to prepare,  take an Ability assessment.

Different disasters call for different emergency plans. For instance, if a person in a wheelchair were in a fire, he would need to know his escape routes, and bring with him the necessities, such as his oxygen tank, medications, or assistance animals. On the other hand, someone with a hearing impairment would need to create a list of contacts, and bring a pad of paper and pen to write instructions for emergency crews, if necessary.

One good way to try to figure out what you would need for an emergency is to go through the motions, such as in a safety drill. It’s a good idea to know your escape plan ahead of time. Be able to get out of your home from several different areas. Know how to shut off the gas and water. Does your family know the escape routine, if not, you should do a practice run every 6 months, according to FEMA. Know what to grab in an emergency and know where it is—it’s better if it’s easily accessible, and not in the attic, or something like that.

What do you need in your emergency preparedness ‘kit?’ Besides the basics: food, water, and shelter, a person with a disability needs to have in plan their specific requirements for their condition or disability. Here are some basic things to consider in preparing for disasters. Get a complete list of what to include in your emergency kit.

  1. Create a support network and make sure they know their role in assisting you
  2. Use emergency planning resources such as: FEMA, Ready.gov, Accessible Emergency Information
  3. Know the phone numbers to the local independent living center, shelter, hospital, transportation, poison control center, personal care facilities
  4. Create and emergency kit; include, batteries for hearing aids, wheelchairs, technologies; copies of medical information/ medications/ allergies, etc.; get an I.D. bracelet if you have a medical condition that requires additional care (if you weren’t able to communicate with paramedics, for instance, how would they know if you were allergic to penicillin?).

Watch a video on what to bring in an emergency Ready.gov Emergency Preparedness Video If you have created an emergency plan and share it with the people in your life, you can be prepared for disasters. Make sure you have what you need, if something bad were to happen. Practicing for earthquakes, tornados, floods, and other natural disasters may end up saving your life, or someone you know. Reviewing your plan every 6 months, as FEMA suggests, will ensure you and your family know what to do, who to call, what to bring when disaster strikes. Practicing takes only minutes, and is worth it. Better to know what to do and not need it, than it is to what know what to do when you do need it.

ILWAD members, how do you prepare for disasters?

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