National Preparedness Month was started in 2004 by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) along with the Department of Homeland Security with the goal of empowering Americans to prepare for and respond to all types of emergencies, including natural disasters and potential terrorist attacks.
This year, it is estimated that more than 3000 organizations—national, regional, and local governments, as well as private and public organizations—will support emergency preparedness efforts and encourage Americans to take action [source].
National Preparedness Month & People with Disabilities
Living with a physical disability or mobility challenge makes it even more important to ensure that you have an emergency plan in place. Knowing what to do, who to contact, and where to go in the event of an emergency can make a difference in helping to keep you and your family safe. It can also reduce the amount of time it takes to receive proper medical attention, if necessary. That said, the following is a brief list of items to keep in mind as you plan.
3 Tips to Help People with Disabilities Prepare for an Emergency Situation
# 1 - Keep a list of important information.
Keep a printed copy of information for important emergency contacts. Be sure to include the person’s name, email address, phone number and social media.
Include names and several points of contact for: caregivers, doctors/medical team, co-workers, and other service providers.
#2 - Create & Share an Emergency Plan of Action.
Having a physical disability may mean that you have to allow extra time for evacuation during an emergency situation, such as a hurricane, flooding, or other situation where help may be required.
Create an Emergency Plan of Action, and be sure to share it with your close friends, family, and/or caregivers.
Your emergency plan should contain the following information:
- Name and information for your emergency contact person
- What mobility products or accessories your physical disability may require (and where they are kept)
- Your plans to remain independent, should you require oxygen or mechanical ventilation
- Location and names of any medication(s) you may need
#3 - Review Your Emergency Plan of Action.
Review your Emergency Plan of Action the same way you would practice a fire drill. Involve members of your support group and/or community. By including others in your Emergency Plan of Action, you are also helping to raise awareness about the functional needs of physically disabled persons in your community.
Speak with your employer about your Emergency Plan, and figure out ways to incorporate a similar plan for disabled persons at your workplace (if there isn’t already a plan in place).
Reach out to local community organizations and emergency personnel in the area that you live in to see if a current plan exists.
Quick Emergency Preparedness Checklist for Disabled Persons
Emergency Preparedness in Your FAMILY
- Speak with your family and put together a plan of action to help you stay organized during an emergency situation.
- Prepare an emergency evacuation kit (Things to include in the kit: printed list of names/phone numbers, and/or other medical information, medication(s), cash, flashlight, batteries, etc.).
Emergency Preparedness in Your NEIGHBORHOOD
- Know what the emergency evacuation routes are.
- Have access to a wheelchair van or other handicap-accessible vehicle.
- Have the handicap accessible accessories in your home to aid you in evacuating (ex: stair lifts, wheelchair ramps, etc.).
- Have the phone number of a neighbor or friend who lives nearby (someone you can contact in the event that you have difficulty exiting your home during an emergency).
Emergency Preparedness in Your WORKPLACE/SCHOOL
- Know what sorts of emergency plan your child’s school has in place - particularly as it relates to his/her physical disability.
- Speak to your employer about a having an emergency plan of action at your place of work (ex: knowing which handicap-accessible exits to take in the event of an emergency, etc.).
Emergency Preparedness on a GLOBAL Scale
Check out to see what sorts of things you should know when traveling with a disabled person.
Things to be aware of:
- Transportation - making sure you have access to a handicap-accessible van when traveling
- Lodging - Making sure that hotels are handicap accessible
- Restaurants/Venues - Researching handicap or wheelchair accessible restaurants and venues
- Medical Info - Being sure you have all of your medical information with you, including (but not limited to: prescription information, emergency contact information, etc.). Know/Research nearby medical facilities that are close to where you are staying - just in case of an emergency.
- Talk to Your Doctor(s) - Speak with your medical team before taking any long distance/lengthy trip
Have another tip you'd like to share? Let us know on our Facebook page.
Other Helpful Resources:
- CDC | http://www.cdc.gov/phpr/preparedness_month.htm
- American Red Cross | http://www.redcross.org/prepare/nationalpreparednessmonth
- Ready.gov | http://www.ready.gov/september
- Ready.gov | http://www.ready.gov/individuals-access-functional-needs
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